FRESH AIR

UPDATES

US Political Party Platforms Shift on Israel

Jul 15, 2016 | Aaron Torop

US Political Party Platforms Shift on Israel
news_item/us-israel-flag.jpg

Every four years when the Democratic and Republican parties officially nominate their candidates for president, they also amend their platforms, the official party position on a wide range of issues. Even though the platforms are non-binding and do not directly affect US foreign policy, they do express the overall beliefs and goals of each party.

This past week, the Republican and Democratic platform committees met to debate and vote on the language they wanted to add, subtract and change. As has been the custom, Israel was one of the topics discussed, and both parties amended their positions, signalling the potential for a shift in the US-Israel relationship in the coming years.

 

Republicans

The Republican Party’s 2016 platform on Israel states, in part:

“The U.S. seeks to assist in the establishment of comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East, to be negotiated among those living in the region. We oppose any measures intended to impose an agreement or to dictate borders or other terms, and call for the immediate termination of all U.S. funding of any entity that attempts to do so. Our party is proud to stand with Israel now and always.”

One significant change in the above paragraph is the removal of any language related to a two-state resolution to the conflict. The 2012 Republican platform read:

“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.”

Additionally, the platform committee added in language calling for an “undivided” Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel, language that was in the 2008 platform but removed in 2012. Another new element of the 2016 platform called support for Israel “an expression of Americanism.”

Finally, Republicans added in the following language on BDS:

“We reject the false notion that Israel is an occupier, and specifically recognize that the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (“BDS”) is anti-Semitic in nature and seeks to destroy Israel.”

This shift in language was driven in part by the Iron Dome Coalition Super PAC (created by Jewish Republican activists) in conjunction with pressure from Christians United for Israel, an evangelical Christian lobby with three million members. This goes against the articulated position of AIPAC (the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee, which has 100,000 members) and its attempts to secure a reference to two states in the platform. This is significant because AIPAC is widely regarded as the US organization most important in impacting the US relationship with Israel, and is another example of the possible decline of their influence.

The Republican Party’s position on Israel appears to be becoming less nuanced and the party is openly aligning itself with the voices of some of the right-wing elements in Israel as a way to distinguish itself from the Democrats, who have become more critical of Israel in recent years.

 

Democrats

In the Democratic Party, the story was what did not change, instead of what did. The party’s platform committee had a number of anti-Israel figures on it, notably BDS supporter Cornell West, appointed by the runner-up for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders. Sanders also appointed James Zogby and Keith Ellison, both known “in part for their criticisms of Israel,” and Hillary Clinton appointed Wendy Sherman, a lead negotiator of the JCPOA (the Iran nuclear deal reached last year). While the potential for significant changes was present, the final language mirrors that of previous platforms.

The 2016 Democratic Platform reads:

“A strong and secure Israel is vital to the United States because we share overarching strategic interests and the common values of democracy, equality, tolerance, and pluralism. That is why we will always support Israel’s right to defend itself, including by retaining its qualitative military edge, and oppose any effort to delegitimize Israel, including at the United Nations or through the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement.
“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. While Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations, it should remain the capital of Israel, an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths. Israelis deserve security, recognition, and a normal life free from terror and incitement. Palestinians should be free to govern themselves in their own viable state, in peace and dignity.”

Notably, there were two proposed amendments to the 2016 platform that were voted down: one that would advocate for the end of the “occupation and illegal settlements” and one that would remove the threat of military action should Iran violate the JCPOA. Reportedly there were chants of “free, free, Palestine” when the amendments failed.

 

What Happens Next?

The platforms must be approved during each party’s national convention (the Republican convention is July 18-21 and the Democratic convention is July 25-28). While this is usually a formality, the most recent Democratic convention featured some contention on Middle East issues.

In 2012 the Democrats removed the line “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel,” during the platform committee meeting. However, after much criticism, they reinstated the line on the convention floor, while many people in attendance booed.

One area in which the changes in the platforms could have an impact is whether or not Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama are able to sign a new Memorandum of Understanding, which specifies the long-term arrangements for the US aid package to Israel. If they do not reach an agreement, Netanyahu will have to negotiate with whoever wins the next election or risk losing the certainty providing by the MOU. The changes in the platform could indicate how willing the next president will be to meet Israeli demands or to stay closer to what the Obama Administration offered Israel.

A second change to look out for is the voting pattern of American Jews. While a majority of Jews have voted for the Democratic candidate for president each time since 1924, some say this has the potential to change if the party becomes too anti-Israel. Will large numbers of Jews abandon the Democratic Party if they are too anti-Israel, or will they seek to move the party to a more pro-Israel stance? Others think that American Jews are simply becoming less interested in Israel as a political issue, and thus these changes will not significantly impact their vote. Only time will tell if this has any impact on their vote, but the Jewish vote appears to be trending overwhelmingly toward the Democrats in 2016.

While it is still unclear the extent to which these shifts in platform will influence US policy in the next administration, it is worthwhile to keep a close eye on these changes over time because of what they might indicate about future trends in US-Israel relations.

Aaron Torop

Tags:

RELATED ARTICLES


Hamas fighters in the southern Gaza Strip (Image: Abed Rahim Khatib/ Shutterstock)

We Need a Ceasefire Based on Reality, Not Fantasy

Feb 28, 2024 | Featured, Fresh AIR, In the media
Image: Shutterstock

UNRWA is NOT running out of money. Who says so? UNRWA does!

Feb 16, 2024 | Featured, Fresh AIR
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian meets his Sudanese counterpart Ali Al-Sadiq Ali in Tehran, Feb. 6 (image: Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

West ignores the Sudan war at its peril

Feb 14, 2024 | Featured, Fresh AIR
Palestinian students line up for class in Gaza (Image: Shutterstock)

UNRWA and the Miseducation of the Palestinian people

Feb 12, 2024 | Featured, Fresh AIR
Image: Shutterstock

ABC misrepresents Hamas’ hostages-for-ceasefire offer, Israel’s rejection of it

Feb 8, 2024 | Featured, Fresh AIR
Dr Tal Becker presents Israel's opening statement before the International Court of Justice in the Hague (Image: International Court of Justice)

Was October 7 an act of genocide?

Jan 24, 2024 | Featured, Fresh AIR
455daec3 C2a8 8752 C215 B7bd062c6bbc

After the Israel-Hamas ceasefire for hostages deal

Nov 29, 2023 | Update
Screenshot of Hamas bodycam footage as terrorists approach an Israeli vehicle during the terror organisation's October 7, 2023 attack in southern Israel, released by the IDF and GPO (Screenshot)

Horror on Video / International Law and the Hamas War

Oct 31, 2023 | Update
Sderot, Israel. 7th Oct, 2023. Bodies of dead Israelis lie on the ground following the attacks of Hamas (Image: Ilia Yefimovich/dpa/Alamy Live News)

Israel’s Sept. 11, only worse

Oct 11, 2023 | Update
Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu (r) gets his long-awaited face-to-face meeting with US President Joe Biden in New York (Photo: Avi Ohayon, Israeli Government Press Office)

Netanyahu meets Biden, other world leaders, in New York

Sep 27, 2023 | Update
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who gave an address on Aug. 28 threatening the US and laying out the Iranian-led axis's new "unity of the arenas" doctrine. (Photo: Shutterstock, mohammad kassir)

US-Iran prisoner swap deal set to go through

Sep 12, 2023 | Update
A rally of Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party last year: Yet outside these faithful, Abbas is not only largely unpopular, but his rule over the PA has seen the Palestinian parliament dissolved, judiciary sidelined, and his party hollowed out (Photo: Shutterstock, Anas-Mohammed)

The Crisis in the PA

Aug 28, 2023 | Update

SIGN UP FOR AIJAC EMAILS

RECENT POSTS

Hamas fighters in the southern Gaza Strip (Image: Abed Rahim Khatib/ Shutterstock)

We Need a Ceasefire Based on Reality, Not Fantasy

The International Court of Justice’s finding “circumvented its own precedents and basic legal reasoning” (YouTube screenshot)

ICJ ruling on Israel – baseless and without precedent

Weapons found in UNRWA’s Gaza headquarters (Image: IDF)

Behind the News – March 2024

Israeli President Herzog with a book found in Gaza: The End of the Jews (Image: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Scribblings: What Incitement to Genocide really looks like

Israel’s capture of Iran’s nuclear archive in 2018 proved Iran was “lying through its teeth” about its nuclear plans (Image: Isranet)

Biblio File: Clandestine war

Hamas fighters in the southern Gaza Strip (Image: Abed Rahim Khatib/ Shutterstock)

We Need a Ceasefire Based on Reality, Not Fantasy

The International Court of Justice’s finding “circumvented its own precedents and basic legal reasoning” (YouTube screenshot)

ICJ ruling on Israel – baseless and without precedent

Weapons found in UNRWA’s Gaza headquarters (Image: IDF)

Behind the News – March 2024

Israeli President Herzog with a book found in Gaza: The End of the Jews (Image: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Scribblings: What Incitement to Genocide really looks like

Israel’s capture of Iran’s nuclear archive in 2018 proved Iran was “lying through its teeth” about its nuclear plans (Image: Isranet)

Biblio File: Clandestine war

SORT BY TOPICS