Two members of the Democratic Party’s platform drafting committee – one chosen by Hillary Clinton and the other picked by Bernie Sanders – on Thursday issued a joint call to action to push members of the drafting committee to change current U.S. policy on Israel to the party’s platform.
“Some have speculated about divisions within our party over the future of American foreign policy in the Middle East. The truth is that when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we’re on the exact same page,” Reps. Keith Ellison and Luis Gutierrez said in an email sent out by J Street on Thursday. “This view is not controversial. And we’re certainly not the only ones who feel this way. These are the consensus goals and principles shared by the vast majority of Democrats of every race, ethnicity and faith.”
“So as we and our colleagues work over the next few weeks to frame our party’s platform, we’re confident that we can seize this moment and confirm the consensus vision of peace, security and human dignity shared by our party and its supporters,” they proclaimed. “Working together, we can do our part to help make it a reality.”
Gutierrez, who was appointed as a member of the drafting committee by Clinton, recently returned from a trip to cities in the West Bank and Jerusalem, where he met with Palestinian Authority officials, Palestinian members of the Israeli Knesset and Palestinian students and businessmen. The trip was hosted by the American Global Institute, funded by MIFTAH, a pro-Palestinian organization.
On Tuesday, the Republican Jewish Coalition launched an online campaign that highlights what they called are anti-Israel voices in the Democratic Party – Cornel West, Congressman Keith Ellison, and James Zogby, the three members appointed by Sanders. “Radical Democrat. Stridently anti-Israel. Hand selected to be a Member of the twenty sixteen Democrat Platform Committee,” the narrator says in three separate ads, each highlighting statements made by the three appointees. “Sadly this isn’t the old Democratic Party. It’s today’s Democratic Party.”
Gutierrez was not targeted by the RJC. Mark McNulty, a spokesman for the RJC, told Jewish Insider that Rep. Gutierrez and other Democrats will be targets of upcoming ads. “These ads were just the opening salvo in our campaign against those in the Democratic Party who are anti-Israel,” he said. “These anti-Israel members make the RJC’s job easier by convincing more and more Jews to vote Republican.”
In a recent interview with Jewish Insider, Wendy Sherman, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and a foreign policy advisor to Clinton, maintained that there will be “discussion” within the party over its official approach to the conflict because “Democrats believe in robust discussion.” But in the end, the long-held views of the party and Clinton’s commitment to a two-state solution will “bring together” the party and be reflected in the final draft.
Meanwhile, Sanders – who has yet to concede defeat to Clinton – appears to have dropped his demand for changes to the Democratic platform on Israel.
Several reports and recent comments by Sanders indicate that Clinton’s representatives have seemingly bent the hands of the three Sanders appointees.
“I think it is fair to say that the Democratic platform will be – by far – the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party – in terms of economics, in terms of climate change, in terms of criminal justice, in terms of immigration reform, in terms of higher education, and many other areas,” Sanders said in a wide-ranging taped interview with C-SPAN set to air Sunday.
In a Washington Post Op-Ed published ahead of his speech, “where we go from here,” in New York on Thursday, Sanders listed his demands for “real change.” The list did not make any mention of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Matt Duss, president of the DC-based Foundation for Middle East Peace, who testified at last week’s public hearing at the behest of the Sanders campaign, predicted that the Clinton camp’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would likely prevail at the convention. “I’m happy to have been asked by the Sanders campaign to share my views, but at the end of the day, Clinton is the nominee, so her choices are probably going to carry the day,” Duss told Politico.
Duss did not return a request for comment.
The Republican Party is also facing pressure from a group seeking to move the Republicans into declaring the West Bank as part of the Jewish indigenous homeland.
“On the one hand, this is a healthy move. Such positions are regular features of domestic Israeli debate, and no true friend of Israel should be concerned over healthy, honest disagreements,” Professor Alan Abbey, director of internet and media at Shalom Hartman Institute and an expert on Sanders’ positions going back to the 1980′s, told Jewish Insider. “But even if the more extreme positions get chiseled into the respective platforms, an unlikely possibility, their presence will only harden already-held positions.”
According to Abbey, “Democratic Party supporters of Israel are not going to jump ship to Donald Trump over a few line items in the party platform, nor will Republicans who believe in a two-state solution migrate to Hillary Clinton for that alone.”