Democrats voted at their national convention Wednesday to once again reference Jerusalem as being the capital of Israel and to include the word “God” in their national platform. Two days prior, they revealed to the community that these omissions had been made, which led to uproar among the national Jewish community.
The switch, which campaign officials said came in part after direct intervention from President Barack Obama, was made after several Jewish groups, pro-Israel organizations and Republican lawmakers vehemently objected to the 2012 Democratic Party platform.
“This administration is painfully out of touch with the mainstream of the Jewish community, which knows that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and that it must remain the undivided capital of the Jewish State of Israel,” the Republican Jewish Coalition’s (RJC) Matthew Brooks said in a statement earlier this week, immediately after the 2012 Democratic Party platform was released.
The 2008 platform stated that “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel.” The 2008 platform also stated that the parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations.”
The 2012 platform does emphasize the Obama administration’s support for Israeli security measures such as Iron Dome and refers to President Barack Obama’s “consistent support for Israel’s right to defend itself and his steadfast opposition to any attempt to delegitimize Israel.”
It also states that the president and his party are committed to seeking peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
“A just and lasting Israeli-Palestinian accord, producing two states for two peoples, would contribute to regional stability and help sustain Israel’s identity as a Jewish and democratic state,” the platform states.
A Democratic campaign official said Obama remains a strong supporter of Israel.
“The president obviously does not endorse every affiliation, action or utterance [of his party],” the official said.
“Jewish Democrats know full well that Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel. We — like President George W. Bush before and leaders of both parties for decades — also know that the final status of Jerusalem will have to be formally decided by the parties. This should come as a surprise to nobody,” said National Jewish Democratic Council President and CEO David A. Harris in a statement.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said that Congress and the president supported the fact that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.
“The actions and resolutions passed by Congress have been very clear on this matter,” he said.
A source close to The American Israel Public Affairs Committee said that Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was part of AIPAC’s submission to the platform committee. The source said that AIPAC did not get to review the full Middle East platform.
Baltimore Zionist District President Brian Sacks said shifting the Party platform to include Jerusalem as being the capital of Israel is something that had to be done.
“Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people, there is no denying that,” Sacks said. “This is something that should not have been in dispute. What other nation would we ever question where their capital is located? This should have never been omitted in the first place and I’m glad they corrected this quickly.”
In reaction to the original shift, Jay Bernstein, vice president of the BZD and host of the Sunday morning radio show Shalom USA, said he had several concerns.
“Both parties have used the Jerusalem issue to gain votes,” Bernstein said. “Both parties have expressed a desire to move the [Israeli] Embassy [to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv] only never to do it,” he said, noting that it is better the Democrats are honest and upfront on the issue, rather than promising a move and then not following through.
The Orthodox Union was also among those critical and expressed “deep disappointment” of the Democrats omission. But, the OU did commend the Democrats following the Party’s platform revision.
“We welcome and commend Democratic Party leaders for revising their platform to reflect key facts and principles: Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided so that – as has been the case only under Israeli sovereignty –people of all faiths have access to all holy sites,” said the OU in a prepared statement.
The current Republican platform refers to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Platform Is Tough On Iran
The new Democratic platform does tout Obama’s work on implementing tougher international sanctions against Iran. It says that Obama “is committed to using all instruments of national power to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”
“President Obama believes that a diplomatic outcome remains the best and most enduring solution,” the platform states. “At the same time, he has also made clear that the window for diplomacy will not remain open indefinitely and that all options — including military force — remain on the table.”
“I am glad to see they are taking a strong stance, as of course the Republican Party has done as well,” said Dr. Art Abramson, Executive Director of the Baltimore Jewish Council.
Noted Bernstein: “The U.S. needs to be even more forceful when it comes to Iran. Right now, the Iranian government doesn’t believe that the U.S. will take any military action against them.”
The RJC also highlighted the absence from the new Democratic platform, compared to the party’s 2008 platform, which called for Hamas to be isolated, for Palestinian refugees to return to a future Palestinian state rather than to Israel, and that stated that “it is unrealistic to expect the outcome of final status negotiations to be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.”
The Washington Jewish Week contributed to this story.