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In an impressive display of backpedaling, President Obama “personally intervened” in order to reinstate language that acknowledged Jerusalem as the capital of Israel into the Democratic Party’s platform. It was also important to talk about God, evidently.

Two amendments were proposed:

Amendment 1

Page 32, Line 48: We need a government that stands up for the hopes, values, and interests of working people and gives everyone willing to work hard the change to make the most of their God-given potential.

Amendment 2

Page 63, Line 26: 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.

(h/t: reason.com. Thanks for posting the language of the amendments, instead of just blurry screenshots of CSPAN)

Savvy Gates readers will catch that this was lifted from the 2008 language, though that year’s rendition removed the word “undivided,” which had accompanied platforms since 1992.

A bit of a hullabaloo began when the delegates (that means everyone attending the convention) were asked to vote to pass these amendments. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa ruled that the amendments had been approved by a 2/3 affirmative voice vote. Many are saying that’s not the case. Let’s go to the tape:

So.. That was ugly..
In an obvious breach of democracy, Mayor Villaraigosa decided to take the easy way out of what would have been a nasty situation if the amendments hadn’t passed. He just walked all over the delegates’ rights in the process. Our Founding Fathers would be proud.

This whole fiasco (I feel confident I can call the DNC and, specifically, its position on Israel and the ensuing debates a fiasco by now) gets uglier. In order to respond to Republican criticism, the Obama administration has been attempting to insist that Obama always viewed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. A New York Times article states:

..the president had intervened to bring the platform in line with his own views. ‘The president expressed his view in 2008, and it hasn’t changed,” [a senior administration] official said. “The party platform has not changed from 2008. And the position of the United States government hasn’t changed in decades as it relates to Israel’s capital and peace negotiations.’

But we know that’s factually incorrect:

Jay Carney, White House Press Secretary, refusing to answer:

State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland refusing to answer, though she’s a bit more responsive, and therefore revealing, about how much the Obama Administration avoids this question:

Administration officials were also very comfortable throwing their fellow Democrats under the bus in order to distance President Obama from any “wrongdoing”

Senior Strategist for President Obama’s re-election campain David Axelrod decides to insinuate that this was all bungled by some silly party officials. He probably should’ve gone with my theory that a frat boy intern wrote it. Criticizing former Congressman Ted Strickland was just disrespectful. It’s also sort of stupid to intimate that an ordained United Methodist Minister didn’t think to include God in a document about.. well.. anything ever.

Besides, those involved with the writing of the platform said that the language wasn’t purposefully omitted, which I’m willing to believe. Since the language changed so drastically this year, I think it’s entirely possible that these drafters started from scratch. Further, I think the language is reminiscent in tone and cadence of speeches President Obama has given. What’s the likelihood that his speech writers were in on those meetings, since the drafters wanted to concentrate on what President Obama has accomplished, the same strategy for the platform during then-President Clinton’s re-election year in 1996, and when the section on the Middle East came up, the speech writers just said “yea, this is what we usually say; just throw that in”?

I have my own opinions on Jerusalem as the united capital of Israel, and it’s mostly based on public administration issues and the failure of divided cities in the past. And I obviously think that in many ways Jerusalem is much too controlled by ultra-Orthodox minorities, but this whole back-and-forth about the capital is damaging and distracting. Israel’s pretty stable. We’re dealing with some external threats and crazy things are happening in our neighborhood and, personally, I think that’s a bit more important than whether the American embassy moves to Jerusalem tomorrow – which it won’t, regardless of how loudly either party voices its support for Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

I need to watch Clinton’s speech, and I’m interested to hear what President Obama says in his, but there are many more pressing issues I hope they choose to cover. The administration needs to stop allowing others to hijack any conversation about the Middle East into a “how much we ❤ Israel” contest, and either come out with a clear position it can intelligently stand behind or at least start discussing real plans on a larger scale for a region that desperately needs some direction.