DNC Platform amended to state Jerusalem is the capital of Israel?

DNC Platform amended to state Jerusalem is the capital of Israel?

by Sheila Musaji

Haaretz reported yesterday after the DNC had finalized their platform:

The 2008 platform said that

“the creation of a Palestinian state through final status negotiations, together with an international compensation mechanism, should resolve the issue of Palestinian refugees by allowing them to settle there, rather than in Israel” and that “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.”

In 2012, however, the Democratic platform made no mention of Jerusalem or the “international compensation mechanism” to resolve the issue of the Palestinian refugees.

More than a few pro-Israeli party functionaries at the convention fumed about the omission of Jerusalem - and some mentioned language on Iran that wasn’t tough enough.

Democratic spokeswoman Melanie Roussell defended the change Tuesday as the party’s national convention opened. She said the Obama Administration is taking the same Jerusalem policy as every Republican and Democratic administration since 1967.

The article further reported

Later Tuesday, Mitt Romney’s campaign released a statement in a response to the reported omission, saying that it was “unfortunate that the entire Democratic Party has embraced President Obama’s shameful refusal to acknowledge that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.”

“Four years of President Obama’s repeated attempts to create distance between the United States and our cherished ally have led the Democratic Party to remove from their platform an unequivocal acknowledgment of a simple reality,” Romney wrote, adding that, as “president, I will restore our relationship with Israel and stand shoulder to shoulder with our close ally.”

Rep. Eric Cantor, House Majority leader, followed Romney’s criticism, saying that if the platform represents, as the Democrats said, where the president wants to take the country, then he calls upon all the friends of Israel “to condemn the president’s abrupt break with our closest ally in the Middle East.”

National Jewish Democratic Council President and CEO David A. Harris 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.”

The United Nations has a PDF on the Status of Jerusalem here.  The World Council of Churches has a collection of documents and position papers on the status of Jerusalem which is introduced with this statement:

The conflict over the status of Jerusalem is often cited as the most sensitive, central and emotive of the conflicts shaking the Middle East region as a whole. It is one of the major obstacles in the peace process. Palestinians in the annexed city continue to suffer the daily abuse of occupation in the form of Israeli discriminatory practices against them.

The WCC has repeatedly addressed the question of Jerusalem since 1948. It affirms that Jerusalem is a holy city for three monotheistic religions – Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. The WCC believes that “Jerusalem must remain an open and inclusive city” and that it must be “shared in terms of sovereignty and citizenship” within the framework of international law.

Although there were reports a few months ago that the Vatican would recognize Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem.  Reuters reports that the Vatican denied that allegation. 

Peter Beinert, an Israeli, wrote an article explaining why he believed that the DNC had made a good decision in removing the language about Jerusalem.  In that article he said

...  The inevitability of a political division of Jerusalem is not only commonplace within the Israeli left and the international community, but in the Israeli center and center-right. Ehud Olmert, whose roots are in the ideological right and who, as Jerusalem mayor, was the most articulate and effective advocate of an undivided Jerusalem, proposed, as Israel’s Prime Minister, a division of the city. Today, that same Olmert asserts that no peace is or will be possible with an “undivided Jerusalem.” In doing so, he is merely, albeit courageously, facing facts. Jerusalem is indeed an Israeli city, but not exclusively so: it is emphatically a bi-national city, with 38 percent of its population being Palestinians, and not citizens of Israel. And Jerusalem is divided in more ways than one can imagine: Israelis and Palestinians do not share schools, curricula, neighborhoods, streets, shopping areas, and so on.

If Israelis, such as myself, view Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, we are painfully aware that no other country on the planet does. There is not one foreign embassy in Jerusalem. So 45 years after the Six Day War and 12 years after Camp David, the only place that Jerusalem remains the eternal, undivided capital of Israel is in the fantasies of the ideological right in Israel and the United States.

Initially, public opinion within the American Jewish community on the Jerusalem issue lagged behind these evolving perceptions, and for very understandable reasons. It is quite easy to ridicule American Jews applauding furiously to the florid, patriotic rhetoric on Jerusalem—the equivalent of the clueless tourist in a Hawaiian shirt. The caricature may be easy, but it is entirely undeserved: the devotion of American Jews draws from a genuine attachment to the city, and genuine concern for Israel’s well-being. If it took time for the Diaspora’s perceptions of the city to get in sync with the changing realities, this derived in large part from a very respectable deference to Israeli leadership on this issue. But today, many—if not most—American Jews know what almost everyone else knows: the conflict between Israel and Palestine will end in Jerusalem, or it will never end at all.

This maturing process—the transformation of a teenage infatuation into a mature, adult love—has regrettably bypassed the political arena in the United States. The ideological, largely religious right within the American Jewish community, and key elements in the Jewish establishment, have dictated the terms of reference on this issue, obfuscating the distinction between pro-Likud and pro-Israel. It has become politically suicidal to refrain from declaring loyalty to an undivided Jerusalem in which no one, save the ignorant and the true believers on the fringes, genuinely believe. Parties, party platforms, and even Presidential candidates pander to what they, correctly or incorrectly, perceive to be “the Jewish vote,” advocating policies—like transferring the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem—that no responsible president, regardless of party, will carry out. The discourse on Jerusalem within the political arena in the United States is a charade, and all but the deluded and the devout know it.

The fact that no American president, Republican or Democrat, has ever fulfilled the pre-election promises of moving the embassy to Jerusalem, or recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, is hardly an accident. There is a shared, bi-partisan perception that Israel can achieve what it most richly deserves—recognition of Israeli Jerusalem as the capital of Israel—only in the framework of a permanent status agreement with the Palestinians. Were an American President to be so foolhardy as to act pre-maturely, such a move would not contribute one iota to the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. On the contrary: doing so would sentence the U.S. to join Israel in self-imposed, self-defeating isolation; it would undermine an already challenged American leadership in the Middle East; it would disqualify the United States in its role as fair broker, without which no agreement between Israel and Palestine can be possible.

In rejecting the rhetorical flourishes of domestic politics, and by soberly assessing these realities, successive presidents have not “thrown Israel under the bus.” Rather, they have grounded their platform in reality, one informed by sound policy, not pandering politics.

...  The decision by the Democratic National Committee not to include the meaningless “Jerusalem-capital-of-Israel” language into its party platform is a breath of fresh air. It is a small but significant indication that the discussion on Israel and Palestine may be leaving the parallel universe in which it has flourished—in total detachment from the real world—and returning to the universe in which empirical realities matter.

In the simple assertion—one to which Israel’s leaders have formally agreed—that the status of Jerusalem will be determined through negotiations, the DNC has made a modest but significant contribution to creating political breathing space needed to conduct a frank discussion, even (and, perhaps, especially) during an election campaign. In doing so, they have acted responsibly, in accordance with not only the vital interests of the United States, but those of its ally, Israel.

Today, in an unprecedented move at the DNC, a motion was entered to suspend the rules and to bring up the status of Jerusalem to again be inserted into the Democratic platform. 

The Guardian reports

But the reintroduction of the lines was equally controversial; its clumsy handling resulting in a confusing vote and booing on the convention floor.

At the formal opening of the day’s business, the convention chairman, Antonio Villaraigosa, proposed a vote to return to the document its past commitment to Jerusalem as the Israeli capital as well as a reference to God.

He called for those in favour of the change to shout ‘Aye’ and those against ‘No’. It was a hard to tell, with the two sounding evenly-divided. Villaraigosa called the vote a total of three times to no certain result but eventually called it for the Ayes.

In fact, the change required a two-thirds vote in favour and it definitely did not sound anywhere close to that. But Villaraigosa pushed it through anyway, determined to try to bring a speedy end to an awkward row. There was loud booing in the hall when he announced the changes had gone through.

Here is how the passage regarding Jerusalem 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.”

Today, the Arab American Institute (AAI) issued the following statement:

In a voice vote today at the Democratic National Committee, an amendment to the party platform was pushed through – despite heavy opposition – to include language stating that “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel.”

The language, which was also present in the 2008 platform, had previously been modified to state that President Obama and the Democratic Party “maintain an unshakable commitment to Israel’s security,” and, “It is precisely because of this commitment that President Obama and the Democratic Party seek 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 2012 language was clearly an attempt to bring rhetoric in line with reality – the generally acknowledged fact accepted by all sides of the conflict that the final status of Jerusalem is an issue that needs to be determined in negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians themselves.

Today’s amendment to re-insert the language on Jerusalem was a clear case of putting pandering above responsible politics. Not only is this change a knee-jerk reaction to baseless accusations from the far-right that the Democratic Party has “thrown Israel under the bus,” it also flies in the face of decades of policy and the positions of President Obama, international peacemakers, and the American public at-large. Worse still, the vote was clearly forced through the delegation, despite considerable opposition on the floor.

AAI is disappointed by the inclusion of the amendment, but is also proud of the many delegates – including a record breaking 55 Arab Americans represented this year at the convention – for voting against the amendment, supporting the president and fighting for progress in achieving a lasting peace for Israel and Palestine. AAI President Jim Zogby stated, “Having been through these battles many times, I am disappointed in the irregularities of the procedure. This effort hurts the president and it hurts chances for a lasting peace. I am, however, proud that so many delegates delivered a resounding no.”

After today’s change, Byron Tau on Politico wrote

...  More substantively, the Democratic platform now puts the DNC in direct opposition to longstanding U.S. policy on Jerusalem.

The United States has long declined to recognize Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel, declaring that all “final status issues” should be left to final negotiations between the parties. President Obama promised in 2008 to relocate the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, but hasn’t acted on that promise. President Bush made the same promise and it was met with the same lack of action.

Congress has tried to force the issue, but presidents of both parties have declined to take up the cause of Jerusalem as the capital.

...  Platforms are of course symbolic. The RNC’s 2004 platform contained a reference to Jerusalem being Israel’s capital, though President George W. Bush refused to make that official U.S. policy. But the optics of a full-scale Democratic retreat on the issue, as well as booing by Democratic delegates is unlikely to quell the furor.

Al Jazeera has already published an article which noted

...  Four years ago, during the last presidential campaign, the Democratic Party’s platform had said “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel”.

But this year that language was dropped to try to demonstrate a more even-handed position in the long-running Arab-Israeli dispute.

The status of Jerusalem is fiercely contested between the Palestinians and Israel, which captured eastern Jerusalem during the 1967 war, and is among the thorny “final status” issues to be determined in any peace negotiations.

Most countries, including the US, have not recognised Israel’s declaration of Jerusalem as its capital and keep their embassies in Tel Aviv.

None of this is going to help the Israelis or the Palestinians, or help move the peace process along.

As Prof. Omid Safi posted on Religion News Services:

Forget about the brouhaha over inserting the name of God, or the absurd insertion of Jerusalem back into the party platform at the DNC.

I want to see justice inserted.
I want to see equality inserted.
I want to see love for humanity inserted.

I want to see deep concern for the environment.
I want to see a real commitment to peace, a just peace.
I want to see a party that says we as a nation care about all of us, rich and poor, men and women, old and young, gay and straight, people of faith and people of no faith; and then I want to see us get down to work to make sure that everyone’s rights are protected.
I want to see us as a nation acknowledge that we are in a position of economic privilege with respect to the rest of the human population, and that privilege is not sustainable.
I want to see us get over illusory so-called friends that just drag us further and further into the abyss of tyranny.
I want to see us abandon the deadly embrace of war machinery, and the arrogance of drone wars and Guantanamos.
I want to see a party that will genuinely stand up for something beautiful and lovely, rather than the politics of division and divisiveness.
I want a party that will be more than the better alternative than the lame xenophobic party of the wealthy whites.

Yes, Democrats, you have my vote.
But you do not have my passion, or my loyalty.
As one much more beautiful said, we want to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of humanity.

That’s what I want to see.
I know I am not alone.