One of the few negative moments in an otherwise strong Democratic National Convention was the mishandling of the Israel plank, resulting in the dropping and restoration of language supporting an undivided Jerusalem. But was the result necessarily a bad policy change?
Bad Process Resulted in Mistakes.
Failure to check 2008 language resulted in omission. Everyone agrees that the handling of the matter was sloppy. JTA’s Ron Kampeas pointed out that, in trying to make the language better by adding language “leaving all options on the table” against Iran, and supporting the security of Israel without reservation, staff and working groups did not compare the new text to the original language from 2008 (It is worth noting that past language was written by Los Angeles leadership such as Howard Welinsky). This was a clear procedural lapse.
“This was an act of omission, not commission” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY)
Failure to Communicate Confused Delegates. Once corrected, the people neglected to tell Jewish delegates (or anyone else), of the need to show up for the vote. I spoke with several other delegates who were present for the vote. They were confused about what was going on and some said they voted “no” not because they opposed the language but because the rules were being bent and no one explaining why (For the record, I was a yes vote).
Despite what you may have heard, Villaraigosa was correct in counting a two-thirds vote in favor of the motion to suspend and subsequent change in the language. Better briefing may have helped, but he was correct in his application of the rules and this was reflected by the fact that no objections were lodged.
To be fair, this all happened within 24 hours, not a lot of time to communicate and organize, so perhaps some leeway can be granted. That being said, it still created some perception problems that could have been avoided.
However, procedure and policy are two very different matters and the change may have been for the better.
Good Response Created Stronger Platform and Showed Leadership from the Top.
Obama, Democratic Leadership Moved Quickly and Decisively for Israel. The swift and strong response to the procedural mistake is perhaps the most impressive of all of this kerfuffle. Unlike the GOP platform process, where Romney selectively both embraced and removed himself from the platform, President Obama intervened immediately to demand changing the language back immediately to match his 2008 AIPAC speech. A flood of calls from Vice President Biden, NJDC leaders Marc Stanley and Stephen Bittel and several leading members of Congress to DNCC staff and leadership echoed the President’s demand.
DNC Platform Now Stronger Than GOP Platform. If there is a silver lining to this, it is that the Democratic Platform is now stronger than the Republican Platform when it comes to Israel. Both parties cite “shared values” and “share strategic interests” and support a two state solution. Both parties removed language regarding refugee issues although it can still be implied in both.
There are differences also.
The DNC Platform points out increased security cooperation to deal with terror and missile threats from Gaza and Syria (the GOP Platform only mentions Hamas and Hezbollah, despite the fact that there are numerous other threats to Israel in the region).
The DNC Platform calls for Jerusalem to remain an “undivided city” as the capital of Israel, the GOP Platform only calls on Jerusalem to remain as the capital of Israel without speaking to division (noted by JTA’s Ron Kampeas).
On Iran, the Democratic platform calls for leaving “no options off the table,” expressly citing military force as an option, while the GOP platform remains silent on the issue of military action. The GOP platform has a single short paragraph on Iran, the Democratic Platform has three.
The result, although messy in the process was a Democratic platform that both better represents American-Jewish domestic priorities (separation of church and state, protection of civil liberties, reproductive rights, and programs protecting education, the environment, seniors and the poor) and better reflects American-Jewish priorities on Israel and Iran that the Republican platform does.
If you are unsure, you can compare the Democratic and GOP Platforms yourself and be sure to check out the text of Los Angeles Temple Sinai Rabbi David Wolpe’s benediction from the Democratic Convention.