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July 20, 2016 4:28 am

Nothing Radical About GOP’s Shift on Palestinian Statehood

avatar by Rafael Medoff /

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Palestinian Authority President Abbas at the United Nations.  Photo: Screenshot.

Palestinian Authority President Abbas at the United Nations. Photo: Screenshot. – The omission of Palestinian statehood from this year’s Republican Party platform is neither a radical change nor a departure from immutable US policy, as some critics are claiming. In fact, both parties’ platforms have repeatedly changed positions on Israel-related issues over the years, in keeping with the preference of the presidential nominee or the changing mood among their rank and file.

The first time the Republican platform mentioned a Palestinian state was in 1980. In that year’s race, GOP nominee Ronald Reagan positioned himself as the pro-Israel candidate, after four years of clashes between President Jimmy Carter, Israel, and the American Jewish community. The Republican platform followed accordingly: “We believe the establishment of a Palestinian State on the West Bank would be destabilizing and harmful to the peace process.”

The next three Republican platforms echoed these sentiments, characterizing a Palestinian state as “inimical to the security interests of Israel, Jordan and the US,” and rejecting the notion that Israel should even negotiate with “the Palestine Liberation Organization and its homicidal subsidiaries,” much less give them a state.

But in 1996, after 16 years of explicit opposition to Palestinian statehood, the Republicans shifted. During the preceding three years, Yasser Arafat had recognized Israel, the Israeli army had withdrawn from significant portions of the territories, and the creation of a Palestinian state seemed increasingly likely. As a result, the 1996 GOP platform dropped the party’s longstanding opposition to Palestinian statehood and said only that it “support[s] Israel’s right to make its own decisions regarding security and boundaries.”

But four years later, the party shifted again. Four years of suicide bombings, “jihad” speeches by Arafat, and frequent Palestinian violations of the Oslo Accords fueled skepticism among Republicans about Palestinian statehood. The Palestinian Authority’s threats to unilaterally declare a state seemed likely to ignite new turmoil. The 2000 Republican platform asserted: “A unilateral declaration of independence by the Palestinians would be a violation of [the two sides’] commitment [to resolving disputes through negotiations]. A new Republican administration would oppose any such declaration.”

Soon the platform was shifting again, to accommodate a Republican president. In 2002, George W. Bush became the first president to endorse creation of a Palestinian state, and the 2004 GOP platform echoed his position—but with conditions. While embracing “President Bush’s vision of two states,” the platform added that “for such a vision to become a reality, the Palestinians need a new leadership, not compromised by terror…If Palestinians embrace democracy and the rule of law, confront corruption, and firmly reject terror, they can count on American support for the creation of a Palestinian state.”

In 2008 and 2012, the Republican platform again attached conditions to its endorsement of Palestinian statehood. For a Palestinian state to become “a reality,” it said, “the Palestinian people must support leaders who reject terror, embrace the institutions and ethos of democracy, and respect the rule of law.”

Those conditions are the key to understanding this year’s decision to omit the “two states” formula from the GOP platform. For 12 years, Republicans have been waiting for a “new Palestinian leadership,” one that is “not compromised by terror” and “embraces democracy.” Instead, they see a continuation of Arafat’s leadership through his loyal deputy, Mahmoud Abbas. They see the Palestinian Authority inciting terrorism instead of suppressing it. They see a Palestinian dictatorship instead of a Palestinian democracy. It would have been more remarkable, perhaps, if the Republicans had chosen to ignore their own declared conditions and continued supporting a Palestinian state.

The Democrats’ platform, too, has shifted on Israel many times over the years. It went from calling for the “internationalization of Jerusalem” in 1948, to supporting “Jerusalem as the capital of Israel” and urging that “the US Embassy should be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” in 1972 (long before the GOP took a similar stand). In their 1968 platform, the Democrats called for “the establishment of a non-provocative military balance” between Israel and the Arabs; four years later, talk of “balance” was dropped and the platform called for “provid[ing] Israel with aircraft and other military equipment in the quantity and sophistication she needs to preserve her deterrent strength.” From 1956 through 1964, the Democrats’ platform called for “the resettlement of Arab refugees in lands where there is room and opportunity for them.” Then that language was dropped.

Dr. Rafael Medoff is the author of 16 books about Jewish history and Zionism, including “Herbert Hoover and the Jews: The Origins of the ‘Jewish Vote’ and Bipartisan Support for Israel” (with Sonja Wentling).

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  • Here is a joke that illustrates the flawed logic being aired here:
    In a transatlantic airline flight on a 3-engined jet, a loud explosion is heard. The Captain announces that one engine has exploded, but the plane can fly fine with 2 engines, and they will arrive 30 minutes late. As he finishes the announcement, a second explosion is heard. The Captain announces in a worried voice “We have lost a second engine, but we can still fly. We will be three hours late”. Then a worthy gentleman says “I hope we don’t lose the last engine – we will be up here all night”.
    There is a simple truth that no right-winger in Israel seems to consider: between the Jordan river and the sea, there are TODAY more muslims than jews. Remaining in one state, the Jews will become a minority. If we retain democracy, we become one more Arab State in the middle east. And if we try to prevent full voting rights to the Muslim majority to maintain Jewish rule – we will have become a true apartheid state, like South Africa, where the black majority did not receive voting rights. Such a state cannot survive politically, just as apartheid South Africa did not.
    Israel HAS to go for separation from the Muslim majority, to survive as a Jewish State.

    • Good comment, but remember Arabs are not just Muslims. Arabs are Christians and Jews. The conflict here as most people say is Arabs against Jews. That is deceiving. It should be Arabs against European Jews or the Indiginous populations against the European colonizers, or the Indiginous Arab populations of Arab Jews, Arab Muslims and Arab Christians. Israel can never be a democratic state when it allows the illegal West Bank Settlers to vote and forbids the indiginous Palestinians to vote in Israeli elections.

  • nat cheiman

    No talk no statehood Mr Abbas

  • stevenl

    Finally once in 68 years a GOP will stand firm and resolute with Israel. Until now the US-EU have been supportive of the genocidal resistance and position of the Palestinians.
    EU remains fundamentally antisemitic and is paying for it.
    When you do time and again the same thing and expect a different result, it strongly suggests that something is fundamentally wrong in your brain.
    That is what antisemitism does.

  • enufizenuf

    You have omitted stating the obvious, Israel will get SCREWED royally by a Clinton administration and will be treated royally by a Trump one.

  • falah couri

    Every one knows that America weather democrats or republicans are the source of evil and trouble in the world