WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Republican Party’s Platform Committee unanimously agreed to language on Israel that omits references to a two-state solution — a change that came with little resistance from AIPAC.
The committee meeting Tuesday in Cleveland voted on the language approved Monday by its national security subcommittee. A voice vote carried only “ayes” and no votes against, earning the sponsor of the language, Alan Clemmons, a representative in the South Carolina State House, a standing ovation from other delegates.
The two-state concept has long been a pillar of both Democratic and Republican policy in the region, and a stated policy of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, although not of his government.
For decades it has also been a mainstay of pro-Israel activism and of the pro-Israel lobby, including its leader, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Yet in contrast with 2012, when AIPAC reportedly opposed the language, this year it did not offer resistance and praised the platform.
“The US seeks to assist in the establishment of comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East, to be negotiated among those living in the region,” the platform says.
“We oppose any measures intended to impose an agreement or to dictate borders or other terms, and call for the immediate termination of all US funding of any entity that attempts to do so,” it also says, a reference to Palestinian Authority efforts to seek statehood status outside the framework of negotiations. “Our party is proud to stand with Israel now and always.”
In introducing the language, Clemmons emphasized that it does not preclude US support for a two-state outcome should Israel choose that path.
The language must be approved by the full Republican National Committee ahead of the convention in Cleveland next week.
Other language on Israel “reject(s) the false notion that Israel is an occupier” and describes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and “indivisible,” both changes from the 2012 platform.
Clemmons, who attempted to introduce similar changes in the 2012 platform, said he was rebuffed that year at the behest of delegates who were heeding AIPAC.
This year, the same AIPAC official who was present in 2012, Brad Gordon, the director of policy and government affairs, was in the room, but Clemmons said he did not encounter any resistance from AIPAC to the change.
“There was no overt interference I felt from AIPAC in this round,” Clemmons told JTA.
AIPAC welcomed the language in both the Democratic and Republican platforms.
“We appreciate that both parties’ platforms have now included strong pro-Israel language which is reflective of the broad bipartisan consensus in support of the Jewish state,” its spokesman, Marshall Wittmann, told JTA in an email.
J Street, a liberal Jewish Middle East policy group that is dedicated to the two-state outcome, decried the language, saying it is “dangerous and irresponsible.”
“It breaks with over half a century of bipartisan US consensus on Middle East policy and disavows the important achievements of previous Republican presidents in seeking peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” the group said in a statement. “It would place the Republican Party to the right of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who continues to maintain that he supports the two-state solution.”
The Democrats also included pro-Israel language in their platform, approved over the weekend in Orlando, after delegates loyal to nominee Hillary Clinton rebuffed bids by delegates backing her challenger, Bernie Sanders, to include language critical of Israel for its occupation of the West Bank.
However, the Democratic platform retained the party’s commitment to the two-state solution.
“We 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,” it says.
Driving the changes in the GOP platform is a new political action committee, the Iron Dome Alliance, which seeks to distinguish Republicans as friendlier to Israel than Democrats.
Jeff Ballabon, a founder of the super PAC – so named because it may solicit unlimited donations – said the differences between the parties were now clear.
“While the Democrats are arguing to what extent Israel should be called out for occupation, Republicans are denying that Israel is an occupier,” he told JTA.