After Obama intervenes, Democrats return omitted language on Jerusalem to party platform

Provision defining Jerusalem as capital of Israel was left out of 2012 document, igniting firestorm of criticism

US President Barack Obama waves to supporters as he arrives in Charlotte, North Carolina for the Democratic National Convention earlier this month (photo credit: AP/Chuck Burton)
US President Barack Obama waves to supporters as he arrives in Charlotte, North Carolina for the Democratic National Convention earlier this month (photo credit: AP/Chuck Burton)

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Democrats returned language affirming Jerusalem as Israel’s capital to their party platform on Wednesday. According to Obama campaign officials, the change was made following an intervention by the US president.

The party’s platform committee met in Charlotte, the site of this year’s Democratic Party convention, to restore language from the 2008 platform to this year’s platform.

“They are returning the language to the 2008 situation,” Robert Wexler, a top Jewish surrogate for Obama’s reelection campaign and a drafter of this year’s platform, told JTA. “The exact language.”

“Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel” appeared in the 2008 document, along with the caveat that the matter should be left to final status negotiations.

A Democratic National Committee official also confirmed the reinsertion.

The removal of the language caused a firestorm of criticism from pro-Israel groups, Republicans and Democratic lawmakers in Congress, who said it blindsided them.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney had said Tuesday it was “unfortunate” that “the entire Democratic Party has embraced President Obama’s shameful refusal to acknowledge that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. Four years of President Obama’s repeated attempts to create distance between the United States and our cherished ally have led the Democratic Party to remove from their platform an unequivocal acknowledgment of a simple reality. As president, I will restore our relationship with Israel and stand shoulder to shoulder with our close ally.”

But the Times of Israel reported earlier Wednesday that the Republicans, too, toned down language in their 2012 platform regarding Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem.

The Republican platform changes from 2008 included removing the adjective “undivided” from references to Jerusalem, and cutting the sentence supporting the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Democratic campaign officials had earlier said that the language was removed from their party platform because the overall platform focused on Obama’s achievements — in Israel’s case, the enhancement of security cooperation and the isolation of Iran.

Democrats accused Republicans of hypocrisy regarding the Jerusalem issue on Tuesday, 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 the Democrats’ 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.”

Republican Jewish groups Tuesday listed several changes to the Democrats’ platform that they said were detrimental to Israel — including the exclusion of the express statement that “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel”; the removal of a provision insisting that Palestinian refugees will only be resettled in a future Palestinian state, not in Israel; and the excision of 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.

It was not immediately clear Wednesday whether all these changes would now be reversed by the Democrats. Nor were there indications as to whether the Republicans, too, might now restore excised language on Jerusalem.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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