By: Dr. Aref Assaf
First, it was the Republicans banning Sharia from US courts. Then, the Jerusalem issue resurfaced as an amendment to the 2012 Democratic Party Platform. I, like many who were watching the event unfold on television, had to replay the dramatic scene where a motion was introduced, seconded, and voted on in a most questionable fashion.
By so recklessly adding pro-Israel language – “Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital” – the Democratic Party has shown that it does not serve the cause of peace in the Middle East. In fact, The United States has never recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. For decades, Republican and Democratic administrations alike have said that it is up to the Israelis and Palestinians to settle Jerusalem’s final status. Both Palestinians and Israelis claim Jerusalem as their capital, and the city’s status has long been among the thorniest issues in Mideast peace talks. The now-famous amendment was celebrated by pro-Israel supporters, while Arab Americans screamed foul play.
As has been the case since 1972, (1988 being an exception) the Democratic Party platform has included reference to Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital. Human error, not political blunder, is given for the reason that the obligatory Jerusalem mention was left out). More accurately, the amendment was a knee-jerk reaction to Republican claims that the Democratic Party’s support for Israel was receding. While it is rather fascinating to view the videotape showing how the amendment was inserted, I predict such mention will have little, if any, practical political implications on US foreign policy positions on the two-state solution to the Palestine-Israel conflict. The awkward sequences of the Jerusalem amendment have gone viral.
Comical for some, the video is a testament to a rare case of political pandering that is not in sync with the sentiments of the American public. As required by Democratic Party rules, the language change needs to be approved by a 2/3 floor vote called by the Platform Committee Chairman Antonio Villaraigosa. He did put the vote at the beginning of the Convention session. However, as video/audio reports indicate, including some by C-Span, the delegates voted roughly 50/50, well shy of the required two-thirds majority. Villaraigosa called for a second, and then a third vote, both of which produced the same result. Each time there was a cacophony of “No’s’! from the assembled delegates, which were ignored. Mayor Villaraigosa violated Party rules again when he rejected motions for a roll-call vote and repeated “points of order” from the floor. He then falsely announced that two-thirds of the delegates had agreed to the language change.
There are a number of historical and political untruths inherent in the statement: “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel”. I had covered this matter in another context when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie declared that Israel should have exclusive sovereignty over Jerusalem to ensure that all faiths will have free and unhindered access to their respective religious sites:
“It is worth noting that the United States voted for the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine in November 1947 and United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194 in December 1948 following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The U.S. opposed Israel moving its capital from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, following Israel’s declaration of Jerusalem as its capital in 1949. The U.S. opposed Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem after the 1967 war. The United States maintains a consulate in Jerusalem that deals primarily with the Palestinian population. Diplomatic relations with the Israeli government are conducted at the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv.” I further added that “The United States has proposed that the future of Jerusalem should be the subject of a negotiated settlement. Subsequent administrations have maintained the same policy that Jerusalem’s future not be the subject of unilateral actions that could prejudice negotiations, such as moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”
Writing for Counterpunch, Alison Weir, delves into several other facets of the vote. She deduces that a rebellion was crushed. “While the media, both liberal and conservative, consistently give us Israel-centric coverage, and while party bosses make it clear that favoring Israel uber alles is the way to get ahead, at least half the delegates rebelled.” And this rebellion is, as Ms. Weir predicts, is a sign of a sea change in how average Americans view the ‘special relationship” we have with Israel. Only time will tell.
Dr. Aref Assaf is president of the American Arab Forum, a think-tank specializing in the accurate representation of Arab and Muslim American affairs.