Democratic Retreat After In-Fighting Over Platform Language Regarding Jerusalem

Democratic delegates quickly pulled an about-face on Wednesday, reversing themselves by restoring the language to the party platform that specifically identified Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The move the day before to originally omit the language immediately angered some Jewish organizations while drawing criticism from some Republicans claiming that President Barack Obama continues to distance the U.S. from its closest Middle East ally.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa, the convention chairman, had to ask three times for “aye” votes from the large gathering before determining that the amendment had two-thirds majority necessary to again be included on the platform.

Some delegates who opposed the reinstatement of the language left angry over the outcome, while others stood up from their seats inside the Time Warner Arena and shook their fingers at Villaraigosa, the Washington Post reported.

But the change still didn’t go as far as some delegates or Jewish groups wanted, underscoring how complicated and politically precarious Obama’s relationship with Israel has become.

Some major Jewish organizations were still disappointed in the new Democratic platform statement on Jerusalem.

The primary source of controversy over the Democrats’ platform was their decision to omit any reference to Jerusalem, even though the 2008 platform stated that Jerusalem “is and will remain” Israel’s capital.

But some Jews and Romney supporters noted that the 2012 platform also changes the party position on the rights of Palestinian refugees and their descendants – it no longer rules out their right to return to property inside Israel under a final peace agreement.

The 2008 platform said Palestinians would only be able to resettle inside the future Palestinian state, not inside Israel. But Democratic delegates did not restore that to the 2012 platform, nor did they restore a line from 2008 that described Israel as “our strongest ally in the region.”

In a statement before the Jerusalem change was made, former U.S. senator Norm Coleman (R-Minn), a co-chairman of the Romney campaign, said, “The Democratic Party is signaling a radical shift in its orientation, away from Israel.”

The changes to the 2008 platform more closely align the Democratic platform with long-standing U.S. policy, which holds that issues such as the status of Jerusalem, the rights of Palestinian refugees, and other so-called final status matters should be settled through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

“The president’s position has been completely consistent since 2008,” Jen Psaki, an Obama campaign spokesperson, told reporters Wednesday, referring to the status of Jerusalem as being one that should be settled through negotiation. “This is one example of a time when a position and an issue where there has been bipartisan agreement on, Republicans are trying to make it into a wedge issue, and that’s very disappointing.”

The U.S. government does not formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – its embassy is in Tel Aviv — because Palestinians also claim the holy city as the capital of their future state. Israel occupied East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East War and later annexed it, although the move is not recognized internationally.

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