J Street lauds Democrats for putting Palestinian rights in platform

J Street lauds Democrats for putting Palestinian rights in platform

Despite rejection of language calling for ‘end to occupation and settlements,’ new stance still marks step forward, head of dovish lobby says

J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami addressing the group’s conference in Washington, March 21, 2015. (Courtesy JTA/J Street)
J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami addressing the group’s conference in Washington, March 21, 2015. (Courtesy JTA/J Street)

Dovish Israel lobby J Street offered full-throated approval for the Democratic Party’s new platform late Saturday, saying the draft document’s recognition of Palestinian rights marked “an important step forward.”

Drafting of the document lasted into the early hours of Saturday, with the committee eventually voting down an amendment led by James Zogby that would have called for providing Palestinians with “an end to occupation and illegal settlements” and urged an international effort to rebuild Gaza.”

Instead, the draft dropped that language and advocated working toward a “two-state solution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict” that guarantees Israel’s security with recognized borders “and provides the Palestinians with independence, sovereignty, and dignity.”

J Street head Jeremy Ben-Ami said in a statement that the language nonetheless represented a “more balanced approach” from previous Democratic party platforms.

“The new language breaks with the party’s practice of framing its aim of establishing a Palestinian state solely in terms of Israel’s interests,” he said. “By including parallel acknowledgement of Israeli and Palestinian rights, the party underscores its belief that the only viable resolution to the conflict–a two-state solution–requires recognizing the fates of the two-peoples are intertwined.”

The 2012 platform made no mention of Palestinian rights, but instead framed a two-state solution as necessary for making Israel safer.

“A just and lasting Israeli-Palestinian accord, producing two states for two peoples, would contribute to regional stability and help sustain Israel’s identity as a Jewish and democratic state,” the platform read.

The stance was expected to shift its language on Israel given the influence of presidential also-ran Bernie Sanders, who pushed for a number of voices critical of Israel to be included on the drafting committee, including Zogby’s.

Zogby said Sanders had helped craft the language that was eventually voted down in favor of Clinton’s preferred verbiage.

While the platform does not bind the Democratic nominee to the stated positions, it serves as a guidepost for the party moving forward. Party officials approved the draft early Saturday.

The Democratic National Convention’s full Platform Committee will discuss the draft at a meeting next month in Orlando, Florida, with a vote at the convention in Philadelphia in late July.

Sanders said Friday he would vote for Clinton, the presumptive nominee, in the fall election, but so far has stopped short of fully endorsing the former secretary of state or encouraging his millions of voters to back her candidacy.

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