Dems Reject Sanders’ Platform Proposal on Israel

The Democratic Party’s platform drafting committee on Friday voted down an amendment that would have called for “an end to occupation and illegal settlements” and an international effort to rebuild Gaza during a meeting in St. Louis.

The amendment was introduced by Palestinian activist James Zogby, who said Senator Bernie Sanders helped craft.

Instead, the 15-member drafting committee approved a draft that advocates for a “two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” that guarantees Israel’s security with recognized borders “and provides the Palestinians with independence, sovereignty, and dignity.”

The wording reflects Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s position on mutual recognition as outlined in the famous Bar Ilan speech in 2009. “In my vision of peace, there are two free peoples living side by side in this small land, with good neighborly relations and mutual respect, each with its flag, anthem and government, with neither one threatening its neighbor’s security and existence,” Netanyahu said.

In May, Sanders appointed three representatives to the drafting platform committee to help him push for changes in current U.S. policy on Israel to the party’s platform.

J Street joined Sanders in lobbying for a “new consensus” approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The organization launched an online petition urging the platform committee “to add language noting concern about the relentless expansion of settlements, which entrench the occupation and endanger peace,” noting that these views are “completely in line with those of an overwhelming majority of American Jews and Democrats more broadly.”

Jeremy Ben-Ami, president and founder of J Street, welcomed the decision to include language that “recognizes the legitimate rights and national aspirations of the Palestinian people,” saying it marks an “important step forward for the party.”

“The new language breaks with the party’s practice of framing its aim of establishing a Palestinian state solely in terms of Israel’s interests,” Ben-Ami said in a statement on Saturday. “By including parallel acknowledgement of Israeli and Palestinian rights, the party underscores its belief that the only viable resolution to the conflict–a two-state solution–requires recognizing the fates of the two-peoples are intertwined. Party leaders have clearly come to understand that pragmatic, solution-driven approaches to the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict make for sound politics, as well as sound policy.”

The full Platform Committee will consider the draft document in Orlando, Florida, next month.

On Sunday morning’s CNN “State of the Union” program, Sanders didn’t push back against the characterization that he lost his battle to change the Democratic Party’s policy on Israel. But he hinted he has not given up the fight yet. “We lost some very important fights. We’re going to take that fight to Orlando, where the entire committee meets in two weeks,” Sanders told Jake Tapper. “And if we don’t succeed there, we are certainly going to take it to the floor of the Democratic Convention.”

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