The Democratic National Convention kicked off in Charlotte, NC today and Israeli news agencies, and the Republican Party, are on high alert because of the change in language regarding our little slice of the world in this year’s Democratic Party Platform.
Because we’re a blog, and I can do what I want and don’t have some silly word limit imposed by an intelligent news editor who’s just doing his or her job, I’ve actually copied-and-pasted the sections referring to Israel from all Democratic Party platforms since 1988, because we’re interested in first-source information here at the Gates. There’s no (read: as little as possible) hearsay here. It is true that the last time the Democrats did not refer to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was 1988, and that when it comes to language on Israel, a bit of a copy-and-paste job of their own seems to have been the policy until this year.
Which brings me to another point – who in the world wrote this year’s platform? In the past, language has been highly stylized, as though the Democrats are rewriting the Constitution. The 1988 platform even opens “WE THE PEOPLE OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.” This year’s platform reads as though the frat boy who is interning in goodness knows what office had to throw it together the night before, or as though he thought it was only going to appear on his WordPress or something 😉
But that’s really a stylistic aside. On to the main argument – I think what was more telling was the conspicuous absence of a reference to the US and Israel’s “special relationship,” which even appeared in the 1988 document.
Now, a friend of mine who works and breathes Democratic Party politics insists that these documents are really not important. But words matter, if only because people read these documents to get an understanding of policy and direction. If it’s important to outsiders, it needs to be important to you. And I’d posit that the Party recognizes that. Whereas 2008’s platform is impassioned and principled, and has plans and philosophies clearly spelled out, 2012’s platform refers to President Obama’s actions. I understand that President Obama now has a record and is not just a candidate, but even 1996’s platform, when President Clinton was running for re-election, gave some space to philosophy, clarifying that Clinton, and the Democratic Party, was “committed to America’s long-standing special relationship with Israel, based on shared values, a mutual commitment to democracy and a strategic alliance that benefits both nations.”
Howvever, I’m not certain the language of this year’s platform would have been read so carefully if this administration wasn’t being accused of having shifting feelings for Israel, and such tension was not already being reported in the news. When reports seem to be that President Obama is quite ready to sell Israel down the river, the way to make Israel secure is not to constantly appear to withdraw support that once existed. Unless.. Maybe this is all a highly complicated ruse to make us all think Israel is really and truly backed into a corner and will be forced to act. As Sophia recently pointed out, the best deterrence against Iranian nuclear ambitions is convincing Iran that, if it continues to advance its nuclear program, it’s going to lose its nuclear facilities. So maybe the appearance of a desperate Israel is what Bibi and Obama are going for. In that case, you’re both doing a brilliant job, sirs. But it doesn’t seem to be working so much..
Positions can change drastically, and memories are short. For example, in the 1984 platform, the Party censured President Reagan for the following:
—He has had as many Middle East policies as he has had staff turnovers. First, he offered strategic cooperation to Israel as if it were a gift. Then he took it away to punish Israel as if it were not our ally. Then he pressured Israel to make one-sided concessions to Jordan. Then he demanded that Israel withdraw from Lebanon. Then he pleaded with them to stay. Then he did not accept their offer of medical help for our wounded Marines. He undercut American credibility throughout the Middle East by declaring Lebanon a vital interest of the United States and then withdrawing.
One-sided concessions not such a good idea, huh? Interesting…
It does appear as though the language has changed rather drastically. But I’m not convinced it matters so much. According to recent polls, Jewish voters are more likely to vote based on economic and social policy rather than on a candidate’s position on Israel, and Jewish voters are some of the most consistently Democratic in the country, so it’s possible the Obama administration simply takes the Jewish vote for granted. Putting aside for a moment how disenfranchising that thought is, the more important aspect of that assumption is that the administration doesn’t see, or disregards, the danger that an unstable Middle East represents. It is not in the United States’s best interest to appear flippant towards Israel, and turning its back on Israel is a quick way to make Israel look an easy target. In a region embroiled in jihadi groups who keep jumping borders to to sow terror and death throughout the area, forgetting for a moment the rising shadow of a nuclear arms race that some analysts insist will ensue if Iran creates a bomb, it’s irresponsible to not act the Strong Horse and make it clear that, under no circumstances, is a nuclear Iran acceptable, and that the United States will protect its interests and friends in all corners of the world. Maybe it’s time for some goodwill trips from our favorite Secretary or, even better, a swing-trhough from a president who hasn’t visited in awhile. Let’s see how his Convention speech goes…
And now, for your enjoyment, almost my entire lifetime’s worth of Democratic Party platform positions:
Language from 2012 (candidate: Barack Obama)
The Middle East. President Obama and the Democratic Party maintain an unshakable commitment to Israel’s security. A strong and secure Israel is vital to the United States not simply because we share strategic interests, but also because we share common values. For this reason, despite budgetary constraints, the President has worked with Congress to increase security assistance to Israel every single year since taking office, providing nearly $10 billion in the past three years. The administration has also worked to ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region. And we have deepened defense cooperation – including funding the Iron Dome system – to help Israel address its most pressing threats, including the growing danger posed by rockets and missiles emanating from the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran. The President’s consistent support for Israel’s right to defend itself and his steadfast opposition to any attempt to delegitimize Israel on the world stage are further evidence of our enduring commitment to Israel’s security.
It is precisely because of this commitment that President Obama and the Democratic Party seek peace between Israelis and Palestinians. 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. At the same time, the President has made clear that there will be no lasting peace unless Israel’s security concerns are met. President Obama will continue to press Arab states to reach out to Israel. We will continue to support Israel’s peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, which have been pillars of peace and stability in the region for many years. And even as the President and the Democratic Party continue to encourage all parties to be resolute in the pursuit of peace, we will insist that any Palestinian partner must recognize Israel’s right to exist, reject violence, and adhere to existing agreements.
Elsewhere in the region, President Obama is committed to maintaining robust security cooperation with Gulf Cooperation Council states and our other partners aimed at deterring aggression, checking Iran’s destabilizing activities, ensuring the free flow of commerce essential to the global economy, and building a regional security architecture to counter terrorism, proliferation, ballistic missiles, piracy, and other common threats.
2008 (candidate: Barack Obama)
Stand with Allies and Pursue Diplomacy in the Middle East
For more than three decades, Israelis, Palestinians, Arab leaders, and the rest of the world have looked to America to lead the effort to build the road to a secure and lasting peace. Our starting point must always be our special relationship with Israel, grounded in shared interests and shared values, and a clear, strong, fundamental commitment to the security of Israel, our strongest ally in the region and its only established democracy. That commitment, which requires us to ensure that Israel retains a qualitative edge for its national security and its right to self-defense, is all the more important as we contend with growing threats in the region–a strengthened Iran, a chaotic Iraq, the resurgence of Al Qaeda, the reinvigoration of Hamas and Hezbollah. We support the implementation of the memorandum of understanding that pledges $30 billion in assistance to Israel over the next decade to enhance and ensure its security.
It is in the best interests of all parties, including the United States, that we take an active role to help secure a lasting settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a democratic, viable Palestinian state dedicated to living in peace and security side by side with the Jewish State of Israel. To do so, we must help Israel identify and strengthen those partners who are truly committed to peace, while isolating those who seek conflict and instability, and stand with Israel against those who seek its destruction. The United States and its Quartet partners should continue to isolate Hamas until it renounces terrorism, recognizes Israel’s right to exist, and abides by past agreements. Sustained American leadership for peace and security will require patient efforts and the personal commitment of the President of the United States. The creation of a Palestinian state through final status negotiations, together with an international compensation mechanism, should resolve the issue of Palestinian refugees by allowing them to settle there, rather than in Israel. All understand that it is unrealistic to expect the outcome of final status negotiations to be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949. Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel. The parties have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations. It should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths.
* A specific section entitled “Prevent Iran from Acquiring Nuclear Weapons” also read:
The world must prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. That starts with tougher sanctions and aggressive, principled, and direct high-level diplomacy, without preconditions. We will pursue this strengthened diplomacy alongside our European allies, and with no illusions about the Iranian regime. We will present Iran with a clear choice: if you abandon your nuclear weapons program, support for terror, and threats to Israel, you will receive meaningful incentives; so long as you refuse, the United States and the international community will further ratchet up the pressure, with stronger unilateral sanctions; stronger multilateral sanctions inside and outside the U.N. Security Council, and sustained action to isolate the Iranian regime. The Iranian people and the international community must know that it is Iran, not the United States, choosing isolation over cooperation. By going the extra diplomatic mile, while keeping all options on the table, we make it more likely the rest of the world will stand with us to increase pressure on Iran, if diplomacy is failing.
2004 (candidate: John Kerry)
The Middle East. The Democratic Party is fundamentally committed to the security of our ally Israel and the creation of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace between Israel and her neighbors. Our special relationship with Israel is based on the unshakable foundation of shared values and a mutual commitment to democracy, and we will ensure that under all circumstances, Israel retains the qualitative edge for its national security and its right to self-defense. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths.
Under a Democratic Administration, the United States will demonstrate the kind of resolve to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that President Clinton showed. We will work to transform the Palestinian Authority by promoting new and responsible leadership, committed to fighting terror and promoting democracy. We support the creation of a democratic Palestinian state dedicated to living in peace and security side by side with the Jewish State of Israel. The creation of a Palestinian state should resolve the issue of Palestinian refugees by allowing them to settle there, rather than in Israel. Furthermore, all understand that it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949. And we understand that all final status negotiations must be mutually agreed.
2000 (candidate: Al Gore)
Closing the Gates of War
In areas where conflict has raged, comprehensive peace agreements are the foundation for lasting security. Bill Clinton and Al Gore have actively pursued peaceful resolutions to conflicts across the world and have been prepared to go the extra mile on behalf of negotiators seeking peace. Al Gore and the Democratic Party are fundamentally committed to the security of our ally, Israel, and the creation of a comprehensive, just, and lasting peace between Israel and its neighbors. We helped broker the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty, the Wye River accords, and the Sharm el-Sheik Memorandum, and will continue to work with all parties to make progress towards peace. Our special relationship with Israel is based on the unshakable foundation of shared values and a mutual commitment to democracy, and we will ensure that under all circumstances, Israel retains the qualitative military edge for its national security. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths. In view of the government of Israel’s courageous decision to withdraw from Lebanon, we believe special responsibility now resides with Syria to make a contribution toward peace. The recently-held Camp David summit, while failing to bridge all the gaps between Israel and the Palestinians, demonstrated President Clinton’s resolve to do all the United States could do to bring an end to that long conflict. Al Gore, as president, will demonstrate the same resolve. We call on both parties to avoid unilateral actions, such as a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood, that will prejudge the outcome of negotiations, and we urge the parties to adhere to their joint pledge to resolve all differences only by good faith negotiations.
1996 (candidate: Bill Clinton)
The Middle East. President Clinton has overseen a remarkable record of achievement toward peace and security in the Middle East — the Israeli-Palestinian accords; the peace agreement between Israel and Jordan; new regional security and investment summits; Israel’s increased acceptance throughout the Middle East and the world; the dual containment of Iraq and Iran. The Democratic Party is committed to help build on this record, knowing that peace and security are indivisible, and supports the efforts by the Clinton-Gore Administration to achieve a comprehensive and lasting peace among Israel and all its neighbors, including Lebanon and Syria. The Democratic Party remains committed to America’s long-standing special relationship with Israel, based on shared values, a mutual commitment to democracy and a strategic alliance that benefits both nations. The United States should continue to help Israel maintain its qualitative edge. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths. We are also committed to working with our Arab partners for peace to build a brighter, more secure and prosperous future for all the people of the Middle East. To that end, we seek to further and enhance our close ties with states and peoples in the Arab and Islamic world committed to non-aggression and willing to take risks for peace.
1992 (candidate: Bill Clinton)
Middle East Peace
Support for the peace process now underway in the Middle East, rooted in the tradition of the Camp David accords. Direct negotiations between Israel, her Arab neighbors and Palestinians, with no imposed solutions, are the only way to achieve enduring security for Israel and full peace for all parties in the region. The end of the Cold War does not alter America’s deep interest in our long-standing special relationship with Israel, based on shared values, a mutual commitment to democracy, and a strategic alliance that benefits both nations. The United States must act effectively as an honest broker in the peace process. It must not, as has been the case with this Administration, encourage one side to believe that it will deliver unilateral concessions from the other. Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Israel and should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths.
1988 (candidate: Michael Dukakis)
WE BELIEVE this country should work harder to stop the supplies of arms, from both East and West, that fuel conflict In regions such as the Persian Gulf and Angola. Deeply disturbed that the current administration has too long abandoned the peace process in the Middle East and consistently undermined if in Central America, we believe that this country, maintaining the special relationship with Israel founded upon mutually shared values and strategic interests, should provide new leadership to deliver the promise of peace and security through negotiations that has been held out to Israel and its neighbors by the Camp David Accords. We support the sovereignty, independent, and territorial integrity of Lebanon with a central government strong enough to unite its people, maintain order and live in peace in the region.