Lawmakers from Israeli parties across the political spectrum preferred to keep a low profile on Wednesday, most of them declining to comment on news that the Democratic Party in the US had removed references to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital from its 2012 election platform.
The chairman of the left-wing Meretz party, MK Zahava Gal-On, however, expressed concern over the omission, blaming the Israeli government’s right-wing policies for the controversial move.
“I am worried that the issue of Jerusalem doesn’t at all appear on the agenda of the Democrats,” Gal-On told The Times of Israel on Wednesday. “Of course Jerusalem should be listed as Israel’s capital, but not like the right wing would have it, as the ‘united Jerusalem.’”
While other MKs refused to comment on the issue to avoid being seen as interfering in American politics, Deputy Knesset Speaker Danny Danon (Likud) slammed Barack Obama, claiming the move to change the platform stemmed from the US president’s hostility to Israel.
“The things Obama says regarding the rights of Jews in Jerusalem is not a one-time occurrence; it’s an ongoing policy,” Danon told The Times of Israel. “We can clearly say that he is not friend of the State of Israel.”
The new Democratic party platform omits several key pro-Israel clauses that were included in the last election cycle four years ago. While the previous platform explicitly stated that “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel,” the current platform makes no mention of Jerusalem whatsoever. The Democrats’ 2008 platform also demanded that Hamas be isolated until it renounces terrorism and insisted the refugee question be settled in a future Palestinian state and not in Israel. The current document contains no such provisions.
Obama’s Republican rival for the presidency, Mitt Romney, slammed Obama for his “shameful refusal to acknowledge that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital” and pledged to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with Israel if elected. Jewish Democrats defended Obama, saying that Jerusalem will certainly remain Israel’s capital but that the city’s final status would be decided in negotiations with the Palestinians.
“It’s all the talk of a ‘united Jerusalem’ that led the Democrats to no longer list Jerusalem as our capital,” Gal-On said. “We’re paying a heavy price for the government’s rejectionist policy, and that’s the real problem.”
A spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined to comment on the issue, saying that the government did not make a habit of getting involved in the electoral politics of other nations. Several other MKs refused to comment, citing the sensitive nature of the subject, especially ahead of the November 6 elections in the US and recent reports on disagreements between Jerusalem and Washington regarding the Iranian nuclear program.
Danon, however, did not mince words. The changes in the Democrats’ platform merely reflect the course the administration has been following for the last four years, he said.
Danon this week published a book, “Israel: The Will to Prevail,” which is extremely critical of Obama’s policies vis-à-vis Israel. Government sources criticized Danon for publishing a book in English, just ahead of the US elections, as it could be interpreted as interference in an important ally’s internal affairs.
But Danon insists that he is not seeking to interfere in US politics. “I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican. I am a proud Israeli. But the truth needs to be said, and the truth is that Obama, his stance toward the Palestinians and his demands to return to the ’67 lines, are not good for Israel,” he said.
Danon said that the Israeli government would be well advised to keep mum on the changes in the Democrats’ platform, especially so close to the elections. “But we do need to communicate to whomever is elected that we have red lines and that we won’t budge from them,” he said.