DNC adds Jerusalem to platform

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Update: The Democratic National Committee on Wednesday added an amendment to its 2012 platform saying Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel. The language, almost identical to that in the DNC 2008 platform, was added after its omission came under criticism from some Republican groups.

“President Obama personally intervened to strengthen the language,” a Democratic aide involved in the process told Al-Monitor Wednesday.

Obama campaign officials saw the issue as an unnecessary distraction, a source said, adding:. “They were and continue to be comfortable with the original language [in the DNC 2012 platform] that they feel is stridently pro-Israel.”

“The platform is being amended to maintain consistency with the personal views expressed by the President and in the Democratic Party platform in 2008,” DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement Wednesday.

The new amendment, passed in a confusing voice vote at the DNC convention in Charlotte, North Carolina Wednesday,, states: “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.”

The pro-Israel lobby group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), praised the decision.

“We welcome reinstatement to the Democratic platform of the language affirming Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,” the statement from AIPAC said.  “Together, these party platforms reflect strong bipartisan support for the US – Israel relationship.”

Original Post: Officials with the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC did not raise concerns about Jerusalem when they were given a chance to propose amendments to the Democratic National Committee platform at a meeting in Detroit last month, several Democratic sources involved with the platform process tell Al-Monitor.  AIPAC advisors did provide written materials early in the process proposing using language from the 2008 DNC platform, the sources acknowledge, but did not propose amendments on the Jerusalem issue at the Democratic drafting committee meeting reviewing the document last month.

The DNC 2012 platform, released Tuesday, omitted language from the 2008 document saying Jerusalem “is and will remain the capital of Israel.” In fact, the entire DNC 2012 foreign policy platform was rewritten to reflect President Obama’s national security record since taking office, Democratic sources told Al-Monitor. The Obama administration has provided some $10 billion in security assistance to Israel since taking office, including $70 million in military support signed into law by Obama at a Rose Garden ceremony in July.

“We made a conscious decision to not make the platform a purely political and aspirational document, but instead make it a document about how we’ve actually governed,” a Democratic official told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity Wednesday. “So, in the foreign policy section, [we] threw out all the old platform stuff, and talked about our record.”

Mitt Romney and Republican groups–battling an incumbent president who scores high on national security–seized on the omission to try to woo Jewish voters, who traditionally vote Democratic by large numbers. “What is missing from Obama’s 2012 Democratic platform?” said a new ad by the Republican Jewish Coalition Wednesday. “The strong pro-Israel language that was in the 2008 platform.”

An unidentified source at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) told Haaretz that it is the organization’s view that the DNC’s “is a strong pro-Israeli platform,” but that it’s “troubling Jerusalem is not included,” Haaretz’s Natasha Mozgovaya reported on Twitter.

But Democratic hands say they are baffled why organization officials did not propose edits or amendments concerning Jerusalem when given opportunities to do so, particularly in a meeting with members of the DNC platform committee in Detroit last month. Among the members of the DNC draft platform committee who consulted with AIPAC were Ann Lewis, a former AIPAC board member and former Hillary Clinton aide, and former Congressman Robert Wexler, the Florida Democrat who heads the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace and Security.

“Why didn’t AIPAC [officials] suggest line-in-line-out edits on Jerusalem or push folks to offer a formal amendment to the platform at the platform committee meeting in Detroit in early August,” the Democratic official said. “They did not mention the Jerusalem issue or, more importantly, offer (directly or via proxies) an Amendment when given an opportunity to in Detroit. Why?”

“I find a lot of the criticism surprising since my understanding is that AIPAC reviewed several versions of the language and never raised this issue once,” a Democratic Jewish community source told Al-Monitor Tuesday.

An AIPAC advisor said to have been consulted on the DNC platform directed a query from Al-Monitor to a spokesman for AIPAC, who did not immediately respond to queries.

However, an AIPAC advisor told the Washington Post Wednesday that the organization had in fact “included in its proposal to the Democratic drafting committee the same language that was used four years ago.”

For all the partisan mudslinging, recent American presidents, Republicans and Democrats alike, have in office adopted the same position on Jerusalem as a final status issue to be determined by Israelis and Palestinians in negotiations, peace process veterans note. Furthermore, while the Republican party platform has, since 1995, called for moving the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, President George W. Bush did not in eight years in office move to do so.

Indeed, the RNC this year also deleted a line from its 2008 platform pledging to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. “We support Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel and moving the American embassy to that undivided capital of Israel,” stated the line in the 2008 RNC platform, which was deleted from the 2012 Republican document, BuzzFeed reported Wednesday.

(Photo: U.S. President Barack Obama (L) shakes hands with American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) President Lee Rosenberg after delivering remarks at the AIPAC’s annual policy conference in Washington March 4, 2012. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst.)