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Jerusalem political football in US horserace


Well, well. Look who's getting "thrown under the bus," to use the current catchphrase. Advocates for a just peace with the Palestinians, and secularists. What a surprise. From the New York Times' The Caucus blog, Sept. 5:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — President Obama, seeking to quell a storm of criticism from Republicans and pro-Israel groups over his support for Israel, directed the Democratic Party to amend its platform to restore language declaring Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

The change, approved in a voice vote Wednesday that had be taken three times because of a chorus of "No's" in the arena, reinstates the line, "Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel" in a section that describes Mr. Obama's policy toward Israel.

That sentence had been in the 2008 platform, but the Democrats removed it this time, saying they wanted to spotlight other elements of Mr. Obama's policy...

After a day of protests, however, and a likely onslaught of Republican attack ads, the president and the Democrats abruptly reversed course. The chairwoman of the Democratic Party, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, said in a statement that the change was made to "maintain consistency with the personal views expressed by the president and in the Democratic Party platform in 2008."

...Delegates also voted to put "God" back in the platform, amending a section about the government’s role in helping people reach their "God-given potential." The removal of "God-given" had left the platform without any references to God, giving Republicans a target to paint the party as out of touch with family values.

A video online at ABC's OTUS blog indicates that the third voice vote was hardly unambiguous, making the whole affair even more of pusillanimous capitulation. Ali Abunimah on Electronic Intifada is convinced the vote actually went the other way:

[Convention chair Antonio] Villaraigosa held the vote a second time, and then a third time. Each time it seemed the noes had it. Nonetheless, Villaraigosa declared that it had passed anyway. Loud booing could be heard. It's an astonishing spectacle.

Abunimah also notes that the very morning of the vote, the New York Times ran an op-ed, "The Truth About Obama and Israel," in which Israeli-American tycoon Haim Saban ostensibly defended the president against Republican claims that Obama has "thrown allies like Israel under the bus," boasting of his unconditional financial, military and diplomatic largesse to Israel. But even after all that Saban suggested that Obama "should have showered Israelis with more love and affection." Comments Abunimah:

[R]amming through AIPAC's desires – despite an apparent no vote – was a neat summary of how US elites make decisions when it comes to Israel. Both parties are in a bidding war to appease Israel’s most extreme supporters at home and abroad. If this means riding roughshod over their own members, the American public, world opinion, international law and the basic rights of the Palestinian people, then so be it.

The Jewish paper Algemeiner notes a little irony: even as the GOP baits Obama like this, their own platform seems to have overlooked the obligatory undivided Jerusalem reference this time 'round...

A day after controversy began to swirl over the Democrat's [sic] failure to note Jerusalem as Israel's capital in their 2012 platform, The Algemeiner has found that the Republican's [sic] 2012 platform also scales back its support for Jerusalem as Israel's capital from their position in 2008.

In 2008, the GOP's platform read, "We support Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel and moving the American embassy to that undivided capital of Israel."  However, in the 2012 platform released by the GOP ahead of their national convention in Tampa, there is no mention of the Republican's intent to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem if Mitt Romney reaches the White House.

The Jerusalem Embassy Act, which calls for Jerusalem to be recognized as the capital of Israel, was passed by Congress in 1995 but Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama have decided not to move the embassy from Tel Aviv.

"It is unfortunate that the entire Democratic Party has embraced President Obama’s shameful refusal to acknowledge that Jerusalem is Israel's capital," Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said in an e-mail to reporters on Tuesday.

The Republican's [sic] 2012 platform does not refer to Jerusalem as Israel's "undivided capital", as it did in 2008.

It's a funny little dance. Obama is obliged to pay such ostentatious obeisance to the Israel Lobby precisely because his loyalty is in doubt—or, at least, the impression that his loyalty is in doubt is carefully cultivated precisely to bring about this desired effect. Interestingly, this exact same stratagem is used with equal efficaciousness by the Oil Lobby—that other (and greater) pillar of US imperial policy...

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