Why the Democrats have decided to omit Jerusalem from their party platform is utterly beyond me. There is nothing more predictable than the ensuing attacks from the right following such an omission. There's nothing more likely to trouble Jewish voters who still care about Israel than such a battle for Jerusalem. There's nothing that gives more credence to the claim that the Democratic Party is distancing itself from Israel than such an inexplicable decision. So this morning I spent hours trying to understand the logic behind this move – be they political or other – and am still without answers. Until we get a detailed account on the moves leading to such decision, until we get an answer to some questions – was the president involved? Was it a conscious decision, or just neglect? Was there a debate? – I'll be wondering about the rationale behind this.
Jerusalem is one of the few topics on which American Jews still have something resembling a consensus. In AJC surveys, a 60% majority oppose any compromise on the status of Jerusalem. And if AJC polls are too conservative for you to be believed, here's what a survey by J Street says:
...it is important to understand that Jerusalem is the one final status issue where American Jews have expressed difficulty reaching a compromise. While previous J Street surveys have demonstrated the passion that American Jews have for Jerusalem and how discussion of compromises in Jerusalem reduces support for a two-state solution, it is particularly striking that 55 percent majority of American Jews feel that the U.S. did the right thing in strongly criticizing the Israeli announcement to build 1,600 new units in East Jerusalem. The nature of the controversy struck a nerve with American Jews, putting them in a complicated position of being caught between their concerns about America’s international standing and their emotional ties to Jerusalem. Ultimately, Jews are very divided, primarily along denominational lines, on this thorny issue. Among reform and unaffiliated Jews, who together constitute approximately 60 percent of American Jewry, large majorities believe the U.S was right to strongly criticize Israel over the East Jerusalem announcement (60 percent say the U.S. did the right thing compared to 40 percent who said the U.S. did not do the right thing). This sharply contrasts with conservative Jews (47 percent right / 53 percent not right) and orthodox Jews (42 percent right / 58 percent not right).
Republicans are already attempting to make Jerusalem a wedge issue with which to attract Jewish voters. By deciding to drop Jerusalem from the platform, Democrats are playing the role in which they were cast by the Republicans. Three weeks ago I wrote somewhat critically about a Romney ad that is making Jerusalem an issue:
Romney’s new Jerusalem ad is full of nonsensical negligibles of little importance. Except for one thing: Obama does refuse to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. A few days ago, White House spokesman Jay Carney repeatedly and quite comically evaded a question about which city the US government recognizes as Israel’s capital.
So now the only valid claim in Romney's Jerusalem campaign is being revalidated by Obama's party and has been made into an "issue". If Jewish voters are looking for reasons to be worried about Obama, or about the impact of the growing gap between the parties on Israel – they've found one. I expressed many times in the past the growing concern among some Israelis that the gap between Republicans and Democrats on Israel that is seen in the polls will eventually have impact on the party. Is this the first case in which we see such impact? We will not know until more facts related to the omission decision will come out – but here's one thing to remember: it is almost inconceivable to imagine the Republican Party forgetting Jerusalem in such way.
Former congressman Robert Wexler was in charge of drafting the text. Wexler is a long-time Obama devotee, and I suspect that his is a case of a man who knows too much. Wexler is the president of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, and is invested in the peace process. He has too much of an opinion on the issues to be able to think about the platform with the required simplicity. As he omitted Jerusalem he was thinking – and I'm speculating here - about Israeli-Palestinian negotiation and leaving this issue for the two sides to determine, he was thinking about Obama not taking sides so as not to alienate the Palestinians, he was trying to be smart about it – and ended up damaging the party. Instead of doing the simple, obvious thing, and repeating the 2008 language as not to make waves, Wexler was trying to demonstrate his wits and mastery of the issues. When asked yesterday why Jerusalem was dropped, he gave an answer that is no answer:
The Democratic Party platform reflects the president's unflinching commitment to Israel's security and future as a Jewish state.
Wexler also said that Republican attacks are based on "total cherry-picking of the language". He called the document “arguably the most pro-Israel platform language that has ever been in a party platform”. I'm sorry – but it is not. Wexler should read the Republican platform. It is "arguably" more "pro-Israel" than his no-Jerusalem platform:
The security of Israel is in the vital national security interest of the United States; our alliance is based not only on shared interests, but also shared values. We affirm our unequivocal commitment to Israel’s security and will ensure that it maintains a qualitative edge in military technology over any potential adversaries. We support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state with secure, defensible borders; and we envision two democratic states – Israel with Jerusalem as its capital and Palestine – living in peace and security.