After taking withering fire over omission of a plank declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel from their platform, Democrats were ordered by President Barack Obama to retreat and restore language that had been in their 2008 platform. The 2012 document now reads:
“Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel. The parties have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations. It should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths.”
But it wasn't that easy. When the change was brought up for approval there was a loud chorus of "No" votes and the chair, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, called it three times before declaring the change approved. The loudest objections came from Arab-American delegates.
Jewish organizations praised the move, which the Arab American Institute (AAI) called "a clear case of putting pandering above responsible politics." There are 55 Arab-American delegates, according to AAI; there are more than 400 Jewish delegates by one estimate, but I haven't seen anything specific yet.
Now Democrats will turn the fire on the opposition by reminding voters that Republicans had dropped a similar plank of their own last week with no explanation, although few seemed to notice it at the time.
Democrats also got a lot of criticism for leaving any mention "God" out of the platform, but that was restored by presidential order.
For the past two days Republicans were having a great time declaring the missing Jerusalem language was proof positive of Obama's hostility toward Israel, although they themselves had omitted their 2008 declaration — “We support Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel and moving the American embassy to that undivided capital of Israel.” They've made no move to restore it.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) had representatives in Minneapolis last month when the platform was drafted, and they reviewed several versions of the Israel plank and raised no objections, a Democratic operative close to the process told me. JTA reported hearing that from others as well. Anonymous "officials" of the lobby group today pleaded ignorance about the deletions in the two platforms but had declared them both "strong" overall.
Having closely followed the drafting of the Israel planks at six conventions (3 R, 3 D) during my years at AIPAC, I find it incredible that these omissions were not only missed but, eventually, blessed. In my personal experience platform committee members consistently ran platform language past AIPAC representatives so they could later claim the group's blessing. After all, the platform is a political document intended to attract supporters, not turn them away.
It took withering fire from the Republicans to force the Democrats to retreat from their boneheaded omission this week, but I don't expect the GOP to correct their own. Not that it makes much difference.
The bottom line here is politics, not policy, because the reality is Jerusalem is Israel's capital but formal recognition and the move of the American Embassy there from Tel Aviv won't happen until there is a signed formal agreement by the Israelis and Palestinians on the status of the city. And when that comes, you can expect two American embassies in Jerusalem — one in the capital of Israel and the other in the capital of Palestine
More important than the brouhaha over the Jerusalem plank is the tough Democratic language on Iran that explicitly states "all options – including military force – remain on the table" to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon. That's more than a political statement, it is a declaration policy that affects what is happening today.