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September 5, 2012

If I forget thee Jerusalem. Oops! The Democrats just did

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/if_i_forget_thee_jerusalem._oops_the_democrats_just_did/

Photo

A young Jewish man wrapped in an Israeli flag prays at the Western Wall in Jerusalem - Judaism's holiest site - May 2012. (Photo: Reuters)

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. ‎

Consider this:‎

‎1.‎

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).  ‎

‎2.‎

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. ‎

‎3.‎

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.‎

‎4.‎

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.‎


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