The Cable

Dems change platform to include Jerusalem language after Obama intervened

CHARLOTTE - Following what Obama campaign officials said was the personal intervention of President Barack Obama, the Democratic National Committee reversed itself and altered their platform Wednesday afternoon to include language identifying Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

After defending their decision to keep such language out of the platform as recently as this afternoon, convention leaders today proposed two amendments to the platform adopted on Tuesday, one to add a mention of God and one to add a mention of Jerusalem.

"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," the new platform language stated.

An Obama campaign official told The Cable late Wednesday that the change in platform was made to reflect the personal views of Obama, who believes that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and who "personally intervened" to ask for the platform change.

"Mitt Romney spent last week claiming the Republican platform didn't reflect his personal views. That's why the platform was amended, to make clear what the president's personal views are on Jerusalem," the official said.

The official acknowledged that the administration's policy remains not to weigh in on the final status of Jerusalem, which is an issue to be decided by the parties. But the official said that Obama's views and the administration policy are two separate things.

“This makes crystal clear what the President’s personal view is. The policy has not changed.  The president has a personal view and the administration has a policy. They’re not incompatible but there are reasons that the administration’s policy is that the Jerusalem is a final status issue," the official said. “We wanted to make the President’s views clear.”

The Romney campaign was quick to call on Obama to publicly state that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, as his party's platform language now states.

"Mitt Romney has consistently stated his belief that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Although today's voice vote at the Democratic National Convention was unclear, the Democratic Party has acknowledged Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. President Obama has repeatedly refused to say the same himself. Now is the time for President Obama to state in unequivocal terms whether or not he believes Jerusalem is Israel's capital," said campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul.

The amendments required two thirds of delegates' support for adoption and the voice votes inside the arena were so inconclusive, the chair had to call for votes three times. After declaring that two thirds of the delegates had approved the amendments, the hall erupted in boos and howls.

Earlier Wednesday, drafters of the platform and top Democrats including former Rep. Robert Wexler defended the absence in the platform of language affirming Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

"There's a difference between running for president and governing," a Democratic official involved in the drafting process told The Cable earlier today. "And when you govern on this issue, the official position of the United States has been for years and from administrations of both parties that the status of Jerusalem is a final-status issue."

But Democrats were heavily criticized by Romney, Paul Ryan, and many others for not including the Jerusalem language in the platform. AIPAC also told The Cable Wednesday that they had asked for the Jerusalem language in their submission to the DNC but had not seen the final text before the platform went to print.

AIPAC had other gripes about the platform, such as that it didn't contain previous references to Hamas, Palestinian refugees, and language saying that Israel is America's closest ally in the region, but they decided late Wednesday to get behind the new platform language and move on.

"We welcome reinstatement to the Democratic platform of the language affirming Jerusalem as Israel's capital," AIPAC said in a statement provided to The Cable. "Together, these party platforms reflect strong bipartisan support for the US - Israel relationship."

The Cable

Democratic platform drafters defend Israel section

CHARLOTTE - Changes between the 2008 Democratic Party platform's language on Israel and the 2012 version were due to a deliberate effort to refocus the platform toward President Barack Obama's policies, two officials directly involved in its drafting process told The Cable.

Leading pro-Israel groups such as AIPAC were heavily involved in the platform-drafting process, saw final language of the draft platform, and told platform drafters they were satisfied with it, both officials said.

Certain parts of the pro-Israel community are up in arms this week over the fact that the latest version of the platform doesn't include certain passages from the previous version, such as language affirming that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, specific mentions of the terrorist group Hamas, and language spelling out the party's position that Palestinian refugees would be settled outside of Israel as part of any comprehensive arrangement to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

For its part, AIPAC denies signing off on the final language.

"Any assertion that AIPAC had prior knowledge of the deletion of language including on Jerusalem, Israel as the most reliable ally, Hamas, or the refugees is categorically false," AIPAC spokesman Patrick Dorton told The Cable. "AIPAC was never provided with a final copy of the Middle East part of the platform."

"Jerusalem as the capital was part of AIPACs written submission to the platform but we did not see, review, or sign off on the final text,” Dorton said.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney weighed in personally Tuesday, saying in a statement, "It is unfortunate that the entire Democratic Party has embraced President Obama's shameful refusal to acknowledge that Jerusalem is Israel's capital ... As president, I will restore our relationship with Israel and stand shoulder to shoulder with our close ally."

A Democratic official directly involved in the drafting process told The Cable that the drafters made a deliberate and conscious decision to reframe the Israel section of the platform around Obama's record, to limit the section to cover his existing policies, and to intentionally avoid any and all final-status issues.

"There's a difference between running for president and governing," the official said. "And when you govern on this issue, the official position of the United States has been for years and from administrations of both parties that the status of Jerusalem is a final-status issue."

The official listed a number of final-status issues, including borders and settlements, that the Obama administration has determined should be subject to negotiation between Israelis and Palestinians, so the platform drafters decided that the party should stay out of them as well.

"There is a difference when you're writing a platform for an incumbent president. We made a decision to make the platform very much a focus on what the president has been doing. It's not a purely aspirational document," the official said. "On Israel the decision was decided to focus the extraordinary support the president has given to Israel. The decision was to frame the platform plank around that."

Two GOP platforms during George W. Bush's leadership of the Republican Party called out Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and vowed to move the U.S. Embassy there, but Bush never actually carried out his promise, the official pointed out. He also pointed to the 2012 GOP platform, which no longer identified Israel as the "undivided" capital of the Jewish state.

"Is it the Republican position that Jerusalem should be divided?" the official asked. "We are the party in power, so the official administration positions on these final-status issues can't be irrelevant."

Here in Charlotte, a huge debate has erupted over whether or not the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) had seen the final draft of the 2012 DNC platform and been satisfied with it during a July drafting session in Minneapolis and another final drafting session in early August in Detroit. Some anonymous sources are telling reporters that AIPAC "loved" the platform while other anonymous voices saying that AIPAC "was not in the room" when the platform was being worked on.

The Democratic official involved in the drafting said that AIPAC had been consulted very closely, was fully aware of the final draft, and suggested some changes that were in fact incorporated, but never objected to the platform's failure to mention Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

"AIPAC was in the room in Minneapolis and Detroit and I know for a fact that AIPAC was shown the final copies of the draft language," the official said. "They were there for the entire time. They were shown the final draft by a number of platform committee members, and they offered suggestions. They just didn't mention Jerusalem."

What's more, at the second drafting session in Detroit, AIPAC's proxies had every opportunity to offer amendments if there was anything about the Israel plank of the platform they didn't like.

"In Detroit, the draft platform is made public to everyone was there," the official said. "If this was an issue they felt passionate about, they could have offered an amendment and there were no amendments offered by Jewish constituency groups. None."

The Israel platform language was drawn largely from speeches Obama has already made, the official said. The language was shared with certain members of the White House who are authorized to interact with the campaign, but there was no formal vetting of the platform by the administration.

Former Florida Rep. Robert Wexler, now the president of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, was a member of the platform drafting committee and took part in the formation of the Israel section of the platform in Minneapolis in late July. Wexler independently confirmed to The Cable that AIPAC was present at all public parts of the drafting process and had regular interactions with drafting committee members, suggested some changes to the platform that were adopted, but never brought up the Jerusalem issue with him or others as far as he knows.

"The platform was not a checklist of final-status issues," Wexler said. "[AIPAC] told me they thought the language was pro-Israel and satisfactory. They had many opportunities to raise significant concerns and that definitely didn't happen."

"The firestorm that has been raised relates to final-status issues and Jerusalem. The Obama administration policy on Jerusalem is identical to that of Bush, Clinton, and every president since Lyndon Johnson. It's a false story," said Wexler. "The Likud position is American should not dictate final-status issues to the Israelis or to anyone, and that's what the platform does: It encourages the parties to negotiate without outlining their position."

Wexler also pushed back on the criticism that Hamas is not specifically called out in the platform, saying that the platform covers all Palestinian terror groups.

"That's a bunch of junk," Wexler said about the criticism. "The platform doesn't say ‘Hamas,' but it says that any potential Palestinian partner has to meet the conditions necessary for peace. That's even stronger and of course it applies to Hamas."

He said the outcry is overblown and that the media storm over the platform is simply a reflection of Republican attempts to politicize the Israel issue ahead of the election.

"The Democratic platform's language relative to Israel is undeniably, 100 percent pro-Israel," he said.  "To make Israel a wedge issue is harmful to both the U.S. and Israel. And the centerpiece of America's decades-long relationship with Israel is that it's a bipartisan issue. If you deeply care about the well-being of Israel as an American, then you will realize that this kind of rhetoric is not good for either Israel or the United States."