Sure Obama caved again on Palestine but will he benefit?
By Franklin Lamb
As a former law professor President Obama knows something about international law and US constitutional law which he taught at the University of Chicago. But he besmirched his academic bona fides, violated Democratic Party rules and hurt his campaign on 12/5/12 by ordering the Democratic Party to summarily change earlier a twice debated and unanimously adopted plank of the Democratic Platform on the subject of the status of Jerusalem.
The reason this observer even took the time to read the 26,56l word, 37 page 2012 Democratic Party Platform which guides every Democratic candidate for both Houses of Congress and the party’s Presidential candidate, and to a lesser degree, thousands of Democratic Party candidates across the USA is, well, nostalgia.
And I read every word from my preferred relaxation spot which is on the top of my fine new14 story Waad apartment building in the Hezbollah security zone of Dahiyeh, South Beirut. The high-rise was rebuilt, (Israel bombed it and 251 other residential buildings during the July 2006 33-day aggression, reducing it to rubble and dust with two US gifted MK-83 1000 lb. bombs) and my perch has a wonderful view of the mountains to the east and the Mediterranean to the west. As I studied the platform, among my ducks and chickens that I raise on the roof, I couldn’t help thinking of my own experience, now more than a quarter century ago from my time representing Oregon as Democratic National Committeeman under Jimmy Carter and being a member of the 1980 DNC Platform Committee while working in Washington on Ted Kennedy’s issues staff as he tried to wrest our party’s nomination from our incumbent President. It was not easy for the Kennedy campaign to do and as history records our campaign petered out. But not before and not too unlike what occurred this week, a Middle East issue caused some sparks over whether to recognize the PLO and support calls for a State of Palestine in the 1980 Platform.
The decision made by the DNC Platform committee this year cut the 2004 and 2008 Platform sentence “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel" and was the result of several months of work by the platform committee analyzing written submissions, receiving oral presentations, and participating in discussions and debate sessions around the country. To the party’s credit, removing the earlier language reflected international law, both UN Resolution and international customary law based on the overwhelming consensus of more than 188 member countries of the United Nations with very few exceptions being Israel. All of which assert that the status of Jerusalem, whether it’s to be the capital of Palestine, Israel, both or internationalized, is to be left to final status negotiations between the native Palestinians and their colonial occupiers. Nor did the expunged language reflect Obama’s personal views.
Following reports that the Romney campaign was going to run ads asking where is God and support for Israel in the Democrats platform, Obama hastily and ill-advisedly, in this observers view, ordered the Platform Committee to restore the language of both. At the same time, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, the nation's most powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, which had urged including language about Jerusalem's status as the Israeli capital in written testimony to the platform drafting committee, made clear that they were troubled by the omission of their favor Jerusalem language.
As required by Democratic Party rules, the language change needs to be approved by a 2/3 floor vote called by Platform Committee Chairman, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. He did put the vote at the beginning of the 9/5/12 Convention session. However since video/audio reports, including C-Span, make plain the delegates voted roughly 50/50, well shy of required 2/3’s , Villaraigosa called for a second and then a third vote which produced the same result. Each time there was a cacophony of “No’s’! from the assembled delegates which were ignored. Mayor Villaraigosa violated Party rules again when he rejected motions for a roll-call vote and repeated ‘points of order” from the floor. He then falsely announced that 2/3’s had agreed to the language change. He then abruptly walked off the podium thereby profoundly disrespecting the party stalwarts who support it with their hard work and organizational skills. The stunned stare on Villaraigosa’s face suggested how deep in denial the Democratic Party has been about the anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian sentiment growing among the party rank and file. The widely claimed bipartisan support for the Zionist occupation of Palestine is receding.
The Party now faces the prospect of a full convention vote on the issue or a court challenge if delegates choose not to let Obama’s betrayal stand.
The reason the 2012 Platform Committee Members changed the former language is that the old position was ludicrous according to expert testimony presented at the Platform hearings, does not reflect US policy as reiterated on 9/6/12 by State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell, and because this year’s platform reflected, to a modest degree at least, the overdue and increasing political power of Arab and Muslim Americans who, often as small business people have largely heretofore considered themselves Republicans. But more are becoming active in the Democratic Party. These new party activists are informed about the issue of Palestine and take the status of Jerusalem seriously.
Either way the Romney campaign was sure to claim, as they are doing right now that: “Mr. Obama has refused to state his position on Jerusalem and Israel.” Andrea Saul, a Romney spokeswoman, is telling the media: "Now is the time for President Obama to state in unequivocal terms whether or not he believes Jerusalem is Israel's capital."
Obama erred politically and humiliated himself and his partly needlessly with his sell-out in Charlotte. He gained nothing in the way of Zionist support because the lobby has made clear form Tel Aviv to New York that it will never trust him on Israel as they increasingly coalesce around the Romney-Ryan ticket.
The whole spectacle also damaged the Democratic Party which since the 1960’s has championed voter’s rights. Bill Clinton touted this important legacy in his speech. He also focused on the Republicans’ disrespect for voter’s rights: “If you want every American to vote and you think it’s wrong to change voting procedures just to reduce the turnout of younger, poorer, minority and disabled voters, you should support Barack Obama.”
One wonders what the delegates were thinking having just experience disrespect for voting rights within their own party.
Tom Hayden once described the difference between the Republican and Democratic parties as the difference between Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola. The same applies to both parties Platform language on Palestine. The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs illustrates the differences if the reader can find them:
GOP: The U.S. and Israel "speak the same language of freedom and justice"
DEMS: The U.S. and Israel "share common values"
GOP: “The security of Israel is in the vital national security interest of the United States”
DEMS: “A strong and secure Israel is vital to the United States”
GOP: “Ensure that [Israel] maintains a qualitative edge in military technology”
DEMS: "Ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge”
GOP: “We envision two democratic states”
DEMS: "Seek peace between Israelis and Palestinians….producing two states for two peoples”
GOP: “Palestinian people must support leaders who reject terror, embrace the institutions and ethos of democracy, and respect the rule of law.”
DEMS: Palestinians must "recognize Israel's right to exist, reject violence, and adhere to existing agreements”
GOP: “We call on the new government in Egypt to fully uphold its peace treaty with Israel”
DEMS: "We will continue to support Israel's peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan"
GOP: “We call on Arab governments throughout the region to help advance [the] goal [of peace]”
DEMS: “President Obama will continue to press Arab states to reach out to Israel”
GOP: “We support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state with secure, defensible borders; and we envision two democratic states—Israel with Jerusalem as its capital and Palestine—living in peace and security”
Dems: “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"
Neither the Republican nor the Democratic Platforms make any reference to Israeli settlements, increasing violence carried out by Israeli government and settlers or provides even a faint hint of any Israeli wrongdoing.
Meanwhile, AIPAC released a statement on 9/6/12: "We welcome reinstatement to the Democratic platform of the language reaffirming Jerusalem as Israel's capital. One imagines that Obama’s nemeses, Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu is chortling.