By Jared A. Favole, WSJCHARLOTTE, N.C.–The Democratic Party platform doesn’t state that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, a change from prior years that could provide fuel to critics who say President Barack Obama’s commitment to Israel is weak.
“President Obama and the Democratic Party maintain an unshakable commitment to Israel’s security,” begins the 70-page platform in a section titled “The Middle East.” The three-paragraph section details the Obama administration’s support for Israel—including boosting security assistance—but says nothing about Jerusalem.
Such an omission provide an opening to Mr. Obama’s rival for the presidency, Mitt Romney, as Jewish voters—particularly in the battleground state of Florida—are key to the election.
“It is unfortunate that the entire Democratic Party has embraced President Obama’s shameful refusal to acknowledge that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital,” Mr. Romney said in a statement. He added, “Four years of President Obama’s repeated attempts to create distance between the United States and our cherished ally have led the Democratic Party to remove from their platform an unequivocal acknowledgment of a simple reality. As president, I will restore our relationship with Israel and stand shoulder to shoulder with our close ally.”
A spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee, Melanie Roussell, said the Obama administration’s policy toward Jerusalem mirrors that of previous administrations. “As the White House said several months ago, the status of Jerusalem is an issue that should be resolved in final status negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians – which we also said in the 2008 platform. We will continue to work with the parties to resolve this issue as part of a two state solution that secures the future of Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland of the Jewish people.”
Traditionally both the Republicans and Democrats have called during election-year campaigns for Jerusalem to be the capital of the Jewish state. Mr. Obama stated this in a 2008 campaign speech in front of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Washington most powerful pro-Israel lobby. But once in office, presidents from both parties have made little effort to implement such a policy, in part, because such steps would undercut efforts to forge a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.
For years, both parties’ official platforms have mentioned that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel as part of an effort to show unflagging support to the country (and to garner support with Jewish voters). In 2008, the Democratic Party’s platform said “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 Republican Party’s platform for 2012 says “We support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state with secure, defensible borders; and we envision two democratic states—Israel with Jerusalem as its capital and Palestine—living in peace and security.”
The GOP’s platform also omits details about Israel that it had in its 2008 platform. In 2008, the GOP said “We support Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel and moving the American embassy to that undivided capital of Israel.”
This year’s platform makes no mention of moving the embassy. Mr. Romney in July said the U.S. embassy should be moved to Jerusalem and that he’d consult with the Israel about how to do it. Moving the embassy could inflame tensions in the region because Palestinians believe it should be their capital.
Mr. Obama has had a shaky relationship with Israel and its leaders. In 2011, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a rare public rebuke of Mr. Obama at the White House over the president’s comments that peace negotiations should resume based on Israel’s borders before it gained new territory in the 1967 Six Day War.
Mr. Netanyahu, speaking before reports with the president in the Oval Office, turned to face the president while telling him Israel “cannot go back to the 1967 lines” that are “indefensible.”