Democrats hit back Tuesday in the wake of Republican attacks over the removal of pro-Israel provisions from the Democratic Party platform, including the affirmation that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.
They accused the Republicans of hypocrisy, and of seeking to distract attention from the Democratic National Convention, but they did not deny the Republican account of the changes made to the platform.
“President Bush signed waivers 16 times to avoid moving the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem,” noted David Harris, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, accusing Republicans of “stunning, but not surprising” hypocrisy on the issue.
“Jewish Democrats know full well that Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel,” said Harris. “We – like President George W. Bush before and leaders of both parties for decades – also know that the final status of Jerusalem will have to be formally decided by the parties. This should come as a surprise to nobody.”
Earlier Tuesday, Republican Jewish groups accused the Democrats of removing several provisions from the party’s platform — including the express statement that “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel”; an insistence that Palestinian refugees will only be resettled in a future Palestinian state, not in Israel; and a call to isolate of Hamas until it renounces terrorism and accepts the peace process. All those provisions were included in the 2008 Democratic party platform but removed from the 2012 platform.
One commentator, Politico’s Byron Tau, called the change “a nod to the realities of governing…. It’s a thorny issue for the president who must balance longstanding US foreign policy objectives against the electoral politics,” Tau wrote.
But Democrats refused to cede ground on the issue. According to Harris, the Obama White House “has the most pro-Israel record of any [administration] on record. The facts speak for themselves: From record aid to Israel to unsurpassed supplemental missile defense to heightened military cooperation to an unprecedented perfect voting record at the United Nations to gathering a global coalition against Iran, President Barack Obama has tirelessly worked to strengthen the special partnership between the United States and Israel.”
Harris added: “Those who are loudest today were silent for eight years when the Republicans ran the executive branch. At the time, President Bush signed waivers 16 times to avoid moving the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. At the time, President Bush said the future of Jerusalem ‘will be ultimately determined by the interested parties.’”
Harris suggested Republican attacks were meant to steal media attention away from the Democratic National Convention that opened Tuesday in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“As the Democratic Convention gets underway here in Charlotte, Republicans will do everything they can to shift the conversation away from talk of choice, Medicare, marriage equality, and the laundry list of issues on which American Jews overwhelmingly line up with the Democratic Party. But it won’t work,” he promised.