J Street calls for ‘balanced’ Democratic platform on Israel, Palestinians
By NAHAL TOOSI 06/03/16 03:17 PM EDT
A left-leaning Jewish American advocacy group is urging the Democratic Party to establish a “balanced position” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as its crafts its platform this year, including acknowledging Palestinian claims to East Jerusalem.
“The overall tone of the document should establish the party’s deep commitment to meeting the essential needs of both Israelis and Palestinians,” says a J Street memo being circulated among members of the platform drafting committee.
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The June 2 memo, a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO, is the latest sign that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could prove a flash-point among Democrats during July’s national convention in Philadelphia.
Two of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ appointees to the drafting committee, academic-activist Cornel West and Arab-American leader James Zogby, have strong pro-Palestinian views that they want reflected in the platform.
Sanders, who is Jewish, has been more critical of Israeli military actions than the front-runner in the race, Hillary Clinton. Polls also suggest that many Democrats are increasingly likely to sympathize with Palestinians over Israelis, a shift welcomed by many pro-Palestinian activists.
J Street argues in its memo that the party “should restate its position that Israel’s capital is in Jerusalem — and should acknowledge that the city is home to both Israelis and Palestinians alike.”
The platform should call “for American recognition of the Jewish areas of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and Palestinian areas of East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state, with precise arrangements to be reached in negotiations,” the advocacy group says.
Just how detailed party leaders are willing to get on such a sensitive topic as the Israeli-Palestinian crisis could depend on how much push-back Sanders’ supporters receive from more conservative pro-Israel elements in the party. The 2012 platform, while acknowledging the need for a peace deal, was heavy on language supportive of Israel and its security.
Still, the fact that Sanders, a Vermont senator, was given five of the 15 slots on the platform committee shows how eager Democratic Party leaders are to patch over the bitter divisions between his supporters and those of Clinton’s, so it’s possible that more language about Palestinian rights could be included this time. (Clinton, a former secretary of state, has six appointees on the platform committee, while Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz appointed the remaining four.) In its memo, J Street also says the drafting committee should state the party’s opposition to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which aims to undermine Israel through economic means.
It further urges the party to state its opposition to Israeli settlement construction and expansion “over the Green Line in the territory Israel has occupied since the Six Day War.”
“The party should state its commitment to Israel’s security and recognition as the national homeland of the Jewish people and their right to a normal life free from terror and incitement,” J Street writes. “The party should also state its commitment to ensuring that Palestinians can govern themselves in their own state, in peace and dignity.”