President Barack Obama is sure to talk about Israel tonight in his nomination acceptance speech, especially in the wake of a dispute over excluding any mention of Jerusalem from the party’s platform, Senator Chuck Schumer said.
His comments today follow the amending of the Democratic platform yesterday to declare Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a provision that had appeared in the party’s previous policy statements and was initially left out of this year’s document.
Schumer called its absence “a mistake” by platform drafters, “an act of omission, not commission.”
The chief drafter of the platform, former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, gave a different account.
Strickland said the language recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel wasn’t originally included because it isn’t official State Department policy.
The provision, which had been included in the party’s 2008 platform, says: “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.”
Strickland said he received a call yesterday afternoon from Obama’s campaign seeking the change that was adopted, as well as the restoration of the reference to “God” in a phrase about the “God-given potential” of “working people. The omission of “God” was an oversight, he said.
The president personally asked for the amendment on Jerusalem when the matter was “brought to his attention,” he said.
James Zogby, a platform committee member and president of the Washington-based Arab-American Institute, said the omission of the Jerusalem language from the original draft was deliberate. “I do not believe it was an oversight,” said Zogby, citing his own conversations with platform committee staffers.
Zogby said he saw a draft of the document before the platform panel met in Detroit last month to take action before the convention. When he expressed his pleasure that the draft didn’t contain the 2008 platform’s Jerusalem reference “no one said in response ‘oh, oh, we’ve got to fix that,’” Zogby said. The dropped reference was “not like a surprise to anybody.”
Zogby said the “language that’s been inserted is inconsequential” because “it does not predetermine anything” about Jerusalem’s status, which U.S. policy says should be left to negotiations between Israel and Palestinians. “Jerusalem is a capital” and “will probably be the capital of two states,” Zogby said in a telephone interview.
The platform language doesn’t deal with the issue of sovereignty, which “is to be determined” by negotiations on creation of a separate Palestinian state, he said.
The dispute over the passage means that “it has become even more important” that the president address the issue in his speech, said Representative Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat. Engel said he has urged White House aides to make sure Israel is part of Obama’s speech because “he’s got a record of support he could be proud of.”
Representative Carolyn Maloney, also a New York Democrat, said the issue showed that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is being disingenuous when he claims that he disagrees with some of the Republican Party’s platform planks.
If Obama could tell the Democratic convention to change its platform and add mentions of Jerusalem and God, then Romney nominee could have demanded changes at his party’s convention last week in Tampa, Florida, she said.
“If you disagree with the platform, why didn’t you try to change it?” asked Maloney, a Democrat. Obama “went in and changed it. Romney could have gone in and changed the things he disagreed with.”
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