We’re sure you’re all up to date on the latest head-scratching kerfuffle at the Democratic National Convention. In the first half of this episode, the Democratic Party removed key pro-Israel provisions from its platform, such as the provision declaring Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capitol, and the one stating that Palestinian refugees should be resettled outside of Israel. Predictably, Democrats got pummeled for the change. In the second half, Democrats scrambled to restore the pro-Israel language to their platform, which had previously been (basically) unchanged for decades. And then other Democrats tried pretty hard to vote that down. So how did this mess come to be and what does it tell us? Our thoughts, below the fold…
First off, there’s little substance here. Why on earth should either political party in the United States issue proclamations on matters that ultimately have to be resolved by Israelis and Palestinians? Neither should. Their opinions on the specifics of those issues just aren’t relevant. Say you’re committed to a strong U.S.-Israel alliance… maybe even to the security of the State of Israel… and move on.
Each party’s pro-Israel platform is simply an anachronism. They both hearken to the heady days when we still thought that U.S. intervention on Mid-East Peace negotiations mattered… back when this presaged further misuse of the Nobel Peace Prize. We’re past that, and both parties should have moved on.
However, we’re in the middle of a historic battle over the Jewish vote here in the United States. It’s truly unprecedented, and the latest moves by the Republican Jewish Coalition are only the latest gambit in the biggest arms race that Jewish voters have ever seen. This makes sense; the Jewish vote in a few swing states could determine the outcome of the national election, and Obama has a mixed record on issues that play particularly well among Jewish voters. (The economy, Israel, etc.)
So the only reason that these planks remain in either party’s platform is that unilaterally taking them out would make one party look less-pro-Israel than the other.
So why, again, would Dems hand ammo to the RJC and its buddies in the middle of this historic scrum?
In this political environment, it’s pretty hard to explain… unless they meant it.
Now, let’s be clear: Democrats are scrambling to explain the initial changes (removing some pro-Israel language) as an oversight. Dem insiders are saying that Mr. Obama directly ordered that the language be restored. Newark Mayor Corey Booker, the Co-Chair of the Democratic Platform Committee, and he said on CNN that it was just a mistake, not a policy decision. We have great respect for Mr. Booker, primarily for his great sense of humor and his at-least-occasional candor. And so we’d be inclined to believe him.
But context prevents us from concluding that this was just a typo. First, Mayor Booker was hedgy; he never clearly explained how the mistake was made or even said that it was inadvertent. He just said it was an error; the platform-drafting process was “imperfect.” Second, the polls tell us that support for Israel among Democrats is considerably lower than among Republicans, and we certainly know what hardcore liberals tend to think about Israel. Finally, we can’t help but notice that when the pro-Israel language was reinserted into the Democratic platform, Democrats at the Convention didn’t actually support it. When the amendment came up, Convention Chair (and L.A. Mayor) Villaraigosa absolutely fudged the voice vote to pass it. (Watch that dramatic and unbelievably dishonest moment at the Convention here. That alone deserves to be talked about quite a bit.)
So we lean toward believing that the removal of pro-Israel language from the Democratic platform was purposeful… and that removing that language mattered to the lifelong Democrats on the platform drafting committee so much that, for a few hours at least, they ignored some obvious political realities to slip it in there.
Regardless, the most unbelievable aspect of this whole shebang is this: for the first time in history, Republicans seem better organized with regard to the Jewish vote than do Democrats.