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Commitment To Israel
t was the nuts-and-bolts convention
that nearly broke down over the most
ethereal of issues: Jerusalem and God.
But by its third and final night, however,
the Democratic National Convention had
gotten back on message: jobs, jobs and
It was a course correction after two days
in which convention organizers and the
campaign's Jewish surrogates scrambled
first to explain how recognizing Jerusalem
as Israel's capital and mentioning God got
left out of the party platform, and then hus-
tled to get them back in over the objections
of some noisy and unhappy delegates.
Four years ago, when President Obama
ran for his first term, the Democratic plat-
form stated, "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 2012 platform, however, did not
mention Jerusalem. Why not?
JTA spoke to three people directly
involved in shaping the platform, and a
number of others who had consulted with
the party. The short answer: No one knew.
"There was no discussion on it," said
Robert Wexler, a former congressman from
Florida, a member of the platform draft
committee and a chief Jewish surrogate for
the Obama campaign. "It's a good question."
Wexler said that those shaping the plat-
form were not focused on final-status issues,
which include Jerusalem. He said he did
not know if there was a directive from the
Obama campaign to avoid such issues, but
said it was fair to "deduce" that there was.
Instead, said Wexler — the only person
involved in shaping the platform who
agreed to speak on the record to JTA — the
campaign wanted the draft committee to
focus on security issues in its Israel section,
an area that the platform makes clear is a
'A strong and secure Israel is vital to the
United States not simply because we share
strategic interests, but also because we share
common values',' the 2012 platform reads,
listing defense assistance, missile defense
cooperation and maintaining Israel's quali-
September 13 • 2012
tative military edge. "The President's consis-
tent support for Israel's right to defend itself
and his steadfast opposition to any attempt
to delegitimize Israel on the world stage are
further evidence of our enduring commit-
ment to Israel's security."
When the contro-
versy broke, Republican
Mitt Romney said, "It
is unfortunate that the
entire Democratic Party
has embraced President
refusal to acknowledge
that Jerusalem is Israel's
"Four years of President Obama's repeat-
ed attempts to create distance between the
United States and our cherished ally have
led the Democratic Party to remove from
their platform an unequivocal acknowledg-
ment of a simple reality. As president, I
will restore our relationship with Israel and
stand shoulder to shoulder with our close
The National Jewish Democratic Council
(NJDC), however, noted that the Republican
platform in 2008 stated, "We support
Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel
and moving the American embassy to that
undivided capital of Israel" — but did not
contain such language in 2012, reported
JointMedia News Service on Sept. 5.
Instead, this year's Republican platform
said, "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:'
"No reference to an undivided capital, no
reference to America's embassy — gone,"
said NJDC President David A. Harris. "Does
this mean the Republican Party is sud-
denly anti-Israel? Of course not. But it does
mean that GOP leaders pointing fingers [at
Democrats] are wildly hypocritical — given
this change and others:'
The Republican Jewish Coalition coun-
tered with an ad that noted the removal of
language from the Democratic platform
calling for the return of Palestinian refu-
gees only to a Palestinian state, and not to
Israel; a call to keep Hamas isolated; and a
reference to "Israel, our strongest ally in the
Meanwhile, Democrats scrambled to
contain the controversy. The language men-
tioning Jerusalem and God was returned in
a quickie session on Wednesday, reportedly
at the insistence of Obama, who said he had
no prior knowledge of its elimination.
But the amendment process was not
without its awkwardness. The convention
chairman, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio
Villaraigosa, had to call for
three voice votes before
declaring a two-thirds
majority. But those on the
floor said the vote actually
was much closer — and
there were boos afterward.
J TA/Donna B ise v ia ww w.fl ic kr.com/p hotoside mconven t io n
Democratic U.S. Sen.
Carl Levin provided his
own take on the amended
"The Democratic Party
platform reaffirms what
has been our party's policy
for decades: Jerusalem is
Israel's capital: he told the
President Barack Obama speaking at the Democratic
National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., Sept. 6.
"In fact, the Democratic platform clearly
states that position, in the present tense,
while the Republican platform makes
a more vague statement that 'envisions'
Jerusalem as the capital of a Jewish state,
that is, something that would occur in the
future. President Obama and Democrats
have supported Israel not only with words,
but with deeds."
Two Metro Detroit Democratic congress-
men running for reelection, Sander Levin
and Gary Peters, in statements to the Jewish
News, also expressed their confidence in the
"I have zero doubt about President
Obama's complete commitment to Israel's
security," said Sander Levin.
A spokesman for Peters said the con-
gressman "is pleased that President Obama
personally ensured that the longstanding
Democratic Party position that Jerusalem
is and will always remain the capital of
Israel continues to be supported by clear
and unambiguous language in the party
Some Jewish Democrats acknowledged
at the outset of the convention that they
needed to address perceptions that Obama
was distant from Israel.
Foreign policy, however, barely sur-
faced at either convention. America's pos-
ture overseas was left to two prominent
final-night speakers — Sen. John Kerry
(D-Mass.), the 2004 nominee who is now
a widely touted possibility as secretary of
state if Obama wins a second term, and
"Our commitment to Israel's security
must not waver, and neither must our pur-
suit of peace," Obama said. "The Iranian
government must face a world that stays
united against its nuclear ambitions:'
Kerry said, "Barack Obama promised
always to stand with Israel to tighten sanc-
tions on Iran — and take nothing off the
table. Again and again, the other side has
lied about where this president stands and
what this president has done. But Prime
Minister Netanyahu set the record straight:
He said our two countries have 'exactly the
same policy ... Our security cooperation is
unprecedented ... '
"When it comes to Israel, I'll take the
word of Israel's prime minister over Mitt
Romney any day:' said Kerry.
Yet, while the convention was under way,
a story broke that underscored the ongo-
ing tensions between the Netanyahu and
Obama administrations over how best to
keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Netanyahu, a Republican lawmaker said,
erupted in anger at the U.S. ambassador to
Israel over what Israel's government regards
as unclear signals from the United States
Rep. Mike Rogers of Lansing, chair of the
House Intelligence Committee, described
for Detroit radio station WJR an encounter
he witnessed last month when he was visit-
ing Israel. The interview was picked up
Sept. 6 by the Atlantic magazine.
"It was very, very clear the Israelis had
lost their patience with the [Obama]
administration," Rogers said. Rogers
described Israeli frustration at what he
depicted as the administration's failure to
make clear to Israel or Iran whether and
when it will use military force to keep Iran
from obtaining a nuclear weapon:'
The convention's most sustained stand-
ing ovation was for Gabrielle Giffords, the
former Arizona congresswoman recover-
ing from being shot in the head in January
2011. Giffords came to recite the Pledge
of Allegiance, walking on her own with
a cane and accompanied by a watchful
friend, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of
Florida, chair of the Democratic National
JN Senior Copy Editor David Sachs contributed
to this report.