There were many items on the table when the Democratic National Committee’s platform committee held a virtual meeting last week to consider proposed changes to a draft version of the platform, including Medicare for All and the legalization of marijuana, which were both voted down as additions.
Most significantly for the Jewish community, however, were the proposed platform changes regarding Israel. Leading up to the platform discussion, a number of groups, both Jewish and Palestinian American, had lobbied the DNC to make key changes to the platform that would have toughened its stance toward Israel. Most of those changes went unaddressed, with the party choosing instead to use the platform to project firm and unyielding support for the Jewish state.
“Democrats believe a strong, secure, and democratic Israel is vital to the interests of the United States. Our commitment to Israel’s security, its qualitative military edge, its right to defend itself, and the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding is ironclad,” the draft platform now reads. “Democrats recognize the worth of every Israeli and every Palestinian. That’s why we will work to help bring to an end a conflict that has brought so much pain to so many. We support a negotiated two-state solution that ensures Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state with recognized borders and upholds the right of Palestinians to live in freedom and security in a viable state of their own.”
The platform also explicitly opposes annexation and settlement expansion, affirms Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, “an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths,” and promises that “Democrats will restore U.S.-Palestinian diplomatic ties and critical assistance to the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza, consistent with U.S. law.”
The platform also notes its opposition to BDS “while protecting the Constitutional right of our citizens to free speech.”
The platform committee rejected the use of the word “occupation” in its Israel plank and declined to support conditions on U.S. aid to Israel should Israel move forward with annexation.
For years now, but especially since 2016, Republicans have pushed messaging suggesting that Democrats are anti-Israel and beholden to what they characterize as a far-left pro-Palestinian progressive agenda. And, to be sure, there are factions within the Democratic party that indeed do appear to be anti-Israel, their rhetoric often reflecting antipathy for the Jewish state. Media favorite and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and about a dozen other Democratic lawmakers, signed a letter in June, addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, calling for conditioning aid to Israel if it moved forward with plans to annex parts of the West Bank, charging that annexation would “lay the groundwork for Israel becoming an apartheid state,” according to media reports. Rep. Ilhan Omar from Minnesota has made many defamatory statements about Israel, including some that many Jews believe crossed the line into anti-Semitism, including accusing AIPAC of paying American politicians to be pro-Israel. Sen. Bernie Sanders, while seeking the presidential nomination last fall, named Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian American activist and outspoken critic of Israel, as a surrogate for his campaign.
But we are encouraged by the position taken here by the platform committee, which we believe reflects not only the party’s historic and unyielding support of Israel, but the centrist position of its nominee, Joe Biden. Biden has been consistent in his point of view — backing a two state solution, showing discomfort with policies that make achievement of a two state solution more difficult, and demonstrating concern for the well-being and welfare of the Palestinian people, even if their leaders work against them.
This is the position of the Democratic Party that we are familiar with, and one which reflects the bipartisan support for the welfare, security and long-term existence of the State of Israel that is so crucial to the continuation of the close bond with the U.S. PJC