Frustrating progressives, first draft of 2020 DNC platform leaves out occupation
Sanders aide: 'Ending occupation an issue of racial justice'

Frustrating progressives, first draft of 2020 DNC platform leaves out occupation

Democratic Party policy document opposes Netanyahu’s proposal to annex parts of West Bank, supports $3.8 billion in annual aid to Israel

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

Former vice president Joe Biden speaks during a memorial service for former Israel Prime Minister Shimon Peres at Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, Thursday, Oct 6, 2016.  (AP Photo/Zach Gibson)
Former vice president Joe Biden speaks during a memorial service for former Israel Prime Minister Shimon Peres at Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, Thursday, Oct 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Zach Gibson)

WASHINGTON — The first draft of the 2020 Democratic platform opposes unilateral actions by Israelis and Palestinians that hurt the chances of a two-state solution, including Israel’s proposed annexation of parts of the West Bank, but stops short of mentioning occupation — a key demand of progressive activists.

The policy document, crafted Wednesday, specifically pushes against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposal to annex parts of the West Bank, according to a copy seen by The Times of Israel. The final document will be released next month.

“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 draft says.

“Democrats oppose any unilateral steps by either side — including annexation — that undermine prospects for two states,” it says.

Netanyahu has said he plans annex the roughly 30 percent of the territory, including all settlements and the Jordan Valley, allocated to Israel under the Trump administration peace plan, which theoretically envisions a Palestinian state in the remaining territory with land swaps.

Netanyahu had vowed to begin the process at the start of July, but efforts have apparently stalled amid internal wrangling and a lack of a green light from Washington. There has been fierce international criticism of the proposed move, much of it coming from Europe along with Jordan and other Arab states.

The Democratic party policy document was put together after a hearing Wednesday morning by the Democratic National Committee’s platform drafting committee.

The final language — which will lay out the party’s major policy positions for the next four years — will continue to be litigated in the weeks leading up to the Democrats’ August convention, when the platform will be unveiled to the public.

At the Wednesday meeting, a senior adviser for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders implored the drafting committee to recognize and seek to end Israel’s presence in the West Bank.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, Independent-Vermont, waves during a campaign event, in Spartanburg, South Carolina, February 27, 2020. (Matt Rourke/AP)

“Bottom line: the fact that Palestinians live under occupation is not a matter of serious dispute,” said Josh Orton. “It’s important to acknowledge this, because people living under occupation are afforded certain rights, and those rights must be upheld and protected.”

Orton added that America’s annual $3.8 billion in military assistance to Israel shouldn’t be used to support annexation.

“The Israeli right wing and, unfortunately, their US supporters, have long sought to erase the occupation,” he said. “We shouldn’t help them. And a growing and just movement within our party believes that US aid should not be used to facilitate annexation and violate Palestinian rights.”

In his remarks, Orton argued that “ending the occupation is an issue of racial justice,” saying the social unrest America has experienced since the police killing of George Floyd should galvanize Democrats to advocate for Palestinian human rights.

“At a time when hundreds of thousands of Americans have been marching in our streets for equality and civil rights, it is absolutely necessary for the Democratic Party to speak truthfully to the Palestinians efforts to secure those same rights,” he said.

Those remarks come after Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen introduced a Senate amendment last week that would ban Israel from using US military aid to annex parts of the West Bank.

The motion currently has 12 other co-sponsors, including Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Virginia Senator Tim Kaine.

The liberal Mideast advocacy group J Street said it was “pleased” that the first 2020 draft called for the establishment of a Palestinian state, but also expressed “concern” that it made no mention of occupation.

“We hope this omission will be amended,” the group tweeted. “It should not be at all controversial for the Democratic Party to oppose the ongoing occupation in 2020.”

The 2016 platform does not mention occupation or Palestinian rights.

Instead, it says the party “will continue to work toward a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiated directly by the parties that guarantees Israel’s future as a secure and democratic Jewish state with recognized borders and provides the Palestinians with independence, sovereignty, and dignity.”

Like the 2016 document, the 2020 draft opposes incitement and terror, settlement expansion, and the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

It supports the memorandum of understanding between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government for the United States to provide Israel with $3.8 billion in military aid over 10 years.

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