Jewish Democrats still unhappy with corrected party platform, which omits clauses on Hamas, refugees and borders | The Times of Israel

September 7, 2012

Democrats who followed or attended their national convention in Charlotte this week generally insist it was energizing, interesting, and reaffirmed for many the argument against Mitt Romney and for Barack Obama.
But the platform debacle – which saw the party dropping mentions of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the only instance of the word “God” and several pro-Israel provisions from its platform, only to have to hurriedly reinstate God and Jerusalem – won’t disappear so quickly from memory if Jewish Democratic leaders have their way. Some have started to call for blood.
The platform was handled “by children,” one Jewish leader in Charlotte who asked to remain anonymous told The Times of Israel.
In the kind of scathing critique that reporters heard from multiple sources this week, the longtime Jewish activist said, “The people responsible for the platform did such a terrible job working on the wording because they did not conduct an inclusive process with members of the [pro-Israel] community. That’s what led to this problem, and those people should be held responsible.”
What’s more, some pro-Israel activists are far from satisfied even with the corrected language in the platform.
Said longtime Democrat and prominent law professor Alan Dershowitz: “I would like to see the president make statements over the course of the coming weeks which re-affirm what was said in the 2008 platform, not only with regards to Jerusalem, but in regard to the borders, the refugees and with regard to Hamas,” he said. Off-the-record, other Jewish Democratic insiders echo the objections.
The 2008 platform had demanded “the isolation of Hamas until that organization renounces terrorism and accepts other requirements of the peace process,” insisted that “any settlement of the so-called ‘refugees’ question in a final settlement make a future Palestinian state, not Israel, the destination for Palestinian ‘refugees,’” and noted “that it’s not realistic to expect [the] outcome of negotiations to be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.”
The platform produced ahead of the convention “wasn’t anti-Israel,” said the Jewish leader who spoke to The Times of Israel anonymously. “It wasn’t bad. It’s just that [the drafters] are children on this, and there was no adult supervision. They don’t understand that there has to be continuity of language. They threw out the previous platform and wrote a new one from scratch.”
That inexperience led the Democrats to the embarrassing primetime television spectacle of attempting to forcibly restore language about God and Jerusalem to the platform on Wednesday through a voice vote on the convention floor – a measure that was loudly booed by some delegates in the half-empty hall.
The Jewish activist’s description of the original platform rewrite process was confirmed by a Democratic official, David Harris of the National Jewish Democratic Council, who said Wednesday, “The party platform is not held up from the previous election. A fresh document was created.”
Harris did not himself criticize party officials for the foul-up, instead preferring to add to the praise other Jewish Democrats had for Obama’s decision to reopen the platform, even at the cost of negative media coverage.
“I’d say it’s a pretty significant moment for any political party to reopen a political document like this at the request of the President of the United States,” said Harris.
The Jewish leader agreed. The platform crafters erred by “trying to align [the platform’s language] with the White House’s policy. The White House’s policy is no different than it was under Bush. But policy is different from a platform. They’re not the same thing.”
“The president’s decision to reinsert some of the language,” said the leader, “was a rebuke to those who did this.”
The word “rebuke” figured heavily in Democrats’ version of events by Thursday.
Dershowitz suggested to Algemeiner on Thursday that the boos in the convention hall on Wednesday came from “rogue elements” of the far left. He said the vote on the forced reinsertion of language on God and Jerusalem made him “frankly very happy… because I think it alerted everybody to the fact that this group within the Democratic Party poses a tremendous danger to the bipartisan support for Israel that has characterized American politics since 1948.”
“We caught them, and the president rebuked them basically,” he added.
The Jewish leader who spoke with the Times of Israel, a man intimately familiar with Democratic Party institutions, dismissed the boos from the convention floor, saying they were “mostly about God” rather than Jerusalem.
“The people in the room that early in the day were from the far left of the party. Some of them didn’t understand the process, because it wasn’t previewed for them. So they didn’t like the process, and they were reacting to inserting God” into the platform, he said.
Pressed, however, as to whether C-SPAN’s footage of Arab American activists booing indicated that some convention delegates may, in fact, have been angered by wording over Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the Democratic leader conceded, “There were some anti-Israel activists in the crowd who made a lot of noise.”
As they pick up the pieces of the PR debacle, Jewish Democrats are pointing fingers at two names especially: former Florida Congressman Robert Wexler and Georgetown University professor and defense analyst Colin Kahl.
Wexler could not be reached for comment. Kahl did not return emails requesting comment.
The platform changes don’t reflect “the views of Democrats,” said the Jewish leader, or even of a minority as Dershowitz believes. Rather, it was Wexler’s and Kahl’s bungled misunderstanding of what a platform is all about that led to the primetime hiccup and “hurt the president.”
Many Jewish Democrats were still unhappy about the reinserted language on Thursday.
“They still did not reinsert [language saying] Israel is our most reliable ally in the Middle East. And they did not reinsert [language saying Palestinian] refugees will return to a Palestinian state. Those are fundamental parts of the special relationship” between the US and Israel, said the leader.
Dershowitz, too, was “not satisfied…..and I communicated this to the White House.”
Democrats are now looking to move past the incident, which is why it is difficult to get any Democratic insider to speak on the matter on record.
But the public quiet hides behind-the-scenes agitation. Democrats have witnessed, spectacularly, their clumsiness on Israel, even from such veteran and intelligent operators as Wexler and Kahl, insiders acknowledge. They will likely be much more careful on the issue in the 61 days that remain till November 6.


Robert Wexler, founder of Turkish-American Friendship Group in the Congress, could be the new ambassador to Israel

July 3, 2010

The most prominent fallout over the clandestine talks between Israeli Minister of Industry Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Switzerland? It was probably between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman.
Lieberman was furious not only that he had not been informed of the mission but that Netanyahu would even consider sending a senior cabinet minister to hold covert talks with Turks. His argument was that if Israel agreed to compensate the families of those killed in the Israel Navy’s raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, the country would suffer a serious blow to its standing in the region.

Lieberman’s problem not only Israel’s “national interests”. Pressure has been increasing day-by-day on his shoulders since the majority of the international community, including Washington, is unhappy with the Foreign Minister’s position.
And it is not external powers who are displeased. Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak see their supposed colleague as a hindrance to manoeuvres with Palestinians and confrontation of the Hamas issue, adding to Israel’s isolation from the international community.
Of course, Lieberman knows what is on Netanyahu’s mind. “The foreign minister takes a very serious view of the fact that this occurred without informing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” Lieberman’s office said in a statement immediately following the revelation of the Ben Eliezer-Davutoglu talks. “This is an insult to the norms of accepted behavior and a heavy blow to the confidence between the foreign minister and the prime minister.”
Haaretz reports, from a source close to Lieberman who has spoken with him in recent days, that the Foreign Minister has been disturbed by Netanyahu’s behavior for quite some time. According to the source, Lieberman is angry over what he sees as the Premier’s legitimization of the global boycott. Indeed, in an interview with Israel Radio on Thursday morning, Lieberman criticized the premier for coordinating the Turkish-Israeli meeting with both Defense Minister Barak and the White House.
When the meeting came to light, Netanyahu had to step back. He apologised to Lieberman, and they met on Friday. Offices of the two men said that they had agreed to work with complete coordination in the future.
Yet this supposed reconcilation still sat alongside the report from Turkish media that Ben-Eliezer had indicated to Davutoglu that Israel was rethinking its refusal to compensate and apologize to the families of those killed in the 31 May 31 on the Freedom Flotilla.
That report had to be pulled back. Ben-Eliezer’s bureau said, “We have no plans to do that, and the minister did not promise anything to that regard during his meeting with the Turkish Foreign Minister two days ago.” Netanyahu spoke even more sharply, telling Israeli television that the covert meeting was a Turkish “provocation” and insisting that there would be no apology or compensation for the Flotilla confrontation.
But if Netanyahu had repaired relations with Lieberman, he may have done so at the cost of his relations with the US. Haaretz reports, from Israeli sources, that Washington was the organizer. The US had already warned both allies not to compete in the region and sent the signal that former Congressman Robert Wexler, one of the founders of the Turkish-American Friendship Group in the Congress, could be the new ambassador to Israel.
After the Ben-Eliezer meeting with Davutoglu, Washington emphasised the necessity of discussion between its two allies. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said:

We certainly support this kind of dialogue that hopefully can help repair the fractures that have existed in recent weeks and months between the two countries.
We have had conversations with both countries individually. In those conversations, we have reinforced that a relationship between Turkey and Israel is not only in the best interest of the region, it is in the interest of — and supports our interests in the region as well.

So, having effectively withdrawn his secret initative, having snubbed Turkey and possibly the US to save face with Lieberman, what next for Netanyahu?

Sending a Turkish friendly ambassador to Israel is not what a friend does after the Turk’s ambushed and attacked Israel.