Recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, at first controversially omitted from the 2012 Democratic Party Platform, will return to the document after three attempted voice votes at the party’s convention in Charlotte, NC, on Wednesday.
On all three voice votes, a seemingly indistinguishable number of convention delegates shouted both “aye” and “no,” but convention chair Antonio Villaraigosa, the mayor of Los Angeles, determined after the third attempt that the required two-thirds vote in favor of the measure was reached. Loud booing followed Villaraigosa’s announcement.
“To hear delegates on the floor of the Democratic convention strongly voice their opposition to recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, then boo when the chairman passes the resolution to adopt that language, is a shock,” Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), said in a statement.
“This unfortunate incident highlights the split among rank and file Democrats when it comes to the critical issue of Israel, something we’ve seen for some time,” Brooks added.
Now, the Democratic 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.”
Speaking on CNN, Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz called the Jerusalem omission a “technical overnight” and said that because Obama “personally believes that Jerusalem is and always should remain the capital of Israel,” the president “made sure that we amended the platform to reflect his personal view as well as reflect the language that we had in the platform in 2008.”
But Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s spokeswoman, Andrea Saul, said Obama needs to go further than the platform change by stating himself “in unequivocal terms whether or not he believes Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.” Romney did so during a speech at the Western Wall this summer.
Before the change, the RJC on Wednesday had announced its placement of an advertisement on the removal of “strong pro-Israel language that was in the 2008 [Democratic] platform” in the Charlotte Observer as well as Jewish newspapers in the swing states of Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Nevada.
The RJC ad highlighted how the Democrats removed that Jerusalem “is and will remain the capital of Israel,” that “The United States and the Quartet should continue to isolate Hamas until it renounces terrorism,” that the peace process “should resolve the issue of Palestinian refugees” by allowing them to settle in a Palestinian state rather than Israel, and that Israel is America’s “strongest ally” in the Middle East.
Every Democratic platform from 1972 to 2008—expect for 1988—“affirmed Jerusalem as capital of Israel,” the RJC noted in a press release.
The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC), however, emphasized Wednesday that the Republican platform in 2008 said “We support Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel and moving the American embassy to that undivided capital of Israel,” but did not contain such language in 2012.
Instead, this year’s Republican platform says the following: “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.”
“No reference to an undivided capital, no reference to America’s embassy—gone,” NJDC President David A. Harris said in a statement. “Does this mean the Republican Party is suddenly anti-Israel? Of course not. But it does mean that GOP leaders pointing fingers [at Democrats] are wildly hypocritical—given this change and others.”
Following the Democrats’ change, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) said it welcomed the “reinstatement to the Democratic platform of the language affirming Jerusalem as Israel’s capital” and praised the language of both parties’ platforms.
“Together, these party platforms reflect strong bipartisan support for the U.S.-Israel relationship,” AIPAC said of the Democratic and Republican documents.
The initial exclusion of Jerusalem rattled not just Republicans, but also legislators within the Democratic Party. “It was silly not to include it,” U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) told the Washington Free Beacon. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told the Jerusalem Post he “wouldn’t have taken [the Jerusalem language] out.”
A video of the event can be viewed below.