Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is planning to use his leverage to change current U.S. policy on Israel in the Democratic Party’s platform at the convention in Philadelphia, The Washington Post reported on Friday.
According to the report, Sanders plans to push for revisions in the party’s position about relations with Israel, with a focus on elevating Palestinian rights as a U.S. priority. People involved in discussions over potential changes to the Democratic Party’s platform said Sanders is expected to demand revisions in wording about U.S. relations with Israel and push for a more even-handed approach to the Israeli-Palestinians conflict.
The current platform endorses “a just and lasting Israeli-Palestinian accord, producing two states for two peoples.” Any changes to the platform will go through the 15-member DNC rules committee
“This campaign is going to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia with as many delegates as possible to fight for a progressive party platform,” Sanders said last month after losing several East Coast primaries.
During the last televised debate, Sanders accused Hillary Clinton of pandering to the pro-Israel community and not supporting the Palestinian people’s right to independence. “I read Secretary Clinton’s statement speech before AIPAC. I heard virtually no discussion at all about the needs of the Palestinian people. Almost none in that speech,” he stated. “We cannot continue to be one-sided. There are two sides to the issue.”
“You can’t just always nod your head to Netanyahu,” Sanders said during a Sunday talk show interview. “He is wrong on occasion… All I am saying is you cannot ignore the needs of the Palestinian people. And right now, as you know, in Gaza, there is mass destruction that has not been addressed right now. Poverty rate is off the charts; 40 percent people are unemployed. We are the United States of America. If we want to bring people together, we have got to address those issues.”
The Republican Jewish Coalition said the report serves as further proof that the Democratic Party is not the home for pro-Israeli voters.
“Americans learned first hand in 2012 that the Democratic Party is no longer the home for pro-Israel voters. In 2012 the convention booed pro-Israel resolutions,” RJC spokesman Mark McNulty told Jewish Insider. “Now in 2016, one of the Democrats’ options for President is intending to further erode and attack supporters of Israel within the Democratic Party through revisions to their platform. This should serve as further proof to the Pro-Israel community that they have one home, the Republican party, which stand unapologetically and unequivocally with Israel.”
“I wouldn’t look for too much change in how the party views Israel going forward,” said Steve Rabinowitz, a Democratic consultant and head of Bluelight Strategies.
Likud MK Anat Berko told the Washington Post, “Please ask in my name Mr. Sanders why he’s not speaking about the denial by Iran of the Holocaust? The calling of Iran for the destruction of the state of Israel? Stoning in the streets of women? Of gays? To put the blame on Israel? You need to identify your enemy and if you don’t identify your enemy you’ve lost the battle.”
Updated: The following is a statement by the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC): “This year, Democrats will once again approve a platform that speaks to our commitment a strong US-Israel relationship. The alliance between our two great nations is essential to the national security interests of both and under a Democratic president in 2017 that partnership will grow even further. We will work together to continue to enhance Israel’s qualitative military edge, prevent a nuclear-armed Iran and pursue a two-state solution. In the meantime, Donald Trump has personally peddled in anti-Semitic tropes and conspiracy theories and still — as a growing number of more reasonable Republican leaders are working against him — the Republican Jewish Coalition refuses to condemn Trump. At the very least, many of Trump’s foreign policy positions have been inconsistent and erratic, once promising to be “neutral” between Israelis and Palestinians. At this critical time, we urge the RJC to stand unapologetically and unequivocally in support of a strong, unshakeable US-Israel alliance – unfortunately for them, that would involve rejecting their nominee.”