What the Democratic Party Platform Really Tells Us About Obama and Israel

Many political criticisms, particularly during an election year, are subjective and can be challenged. Has something been taken out of context? A claim misunderstood? A word twisted? What’s special about analyzing the Democratic Party platform over Israel is that it is easy to take the text and show how support for Israel has been reduced, in some cases shockingly so.

This is the draft platform and it was written by experts. The problem is the identity of those experts. This platform is a combination of “we love Israel” rhetoric (put in by the politicians?) with some serious policy problems (put in by their advisors?).

The Democratic response has been denial. Oh, no, there is nothing new or different and the platform corresponds with standard U.S. policy. The first half of that statement is a lie; the second half is technically true but in some ways it shows the replacement of the traditional over-promising on Israel with what might be called the standard historical State Department line. The base line, then, has been pulled back. If you start out promising the kid a pony, you’ve got to produce something impressive; if your initial offer is a grammar textbook, one can expect less to be delivered in the end.

Moreover, this is not some case of working with the left-of-center in Israeli politics. The key problems with this platform go against the Israeli consensus, not just Likud preferences. Finally, while more amusing than damaging, there’s a lot of bragging about things attributed to Obama that are either standard U.S. policy under his predecessors or due to bipartisan action in Congress.

But here’s the thing that upset me just as much -- the title of the section under which Israel appears: “Strengthening Alliances, Expanding Partnerships, and Reinvigorating International Institutions.”  There is only one sentence about all the Middle Eastern countries other than Israel! It is of vital importance for U.S. interests, and for Israel too, that the United States continues to maintain good cooperation with a dozen specific Arab states. The platform is an insult to America’s Arab allies, who have been dissed by Obama as he has tended to help or support their enemies.

Here I'll focus on the Israel section:

The Middle East. President Obama and the Democratic Party maintain an unshakable commitment to Israel's security. A strong and secure Israel is vital to the United States not simply because we share strategic interests, but also because we share common values. For this reason, despite budgetary constraints, the President has worked with Congress to increase security assistance to Israel every single year since taking office, providing nearly $10 billion in the past three years. The administration has also worked to ensure Israel's qualitative military edge in the region. And we have deepened defense cooperation -- including funding the Iron Dome system -- to help Israel address its most pressing threats, including the growing danger posed by rockets and missiles emanating from the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran. The President's consistent support for Israel's right to defend itself and his steadfast opposition to any attempt to delegitimize Israel on the world stage are further evidence of our enduring commitment to Israel's security.

It is precisely because of this commitment that President Obama and the Democratic Party seek peace between Israelis and Palestinians. A just and lasting Israeli-Palestinian accord, producing two states for two peoples, would contribute to regional stability and help sustain Israel's identity as a Jewish and democratic state. At the same time, the President has made clear that there will be no lasting peace unless Israel's security concerns are met. President Obama will continue to press Arab states to reach out to Israel. We will continue to support Israel's peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, which have been pillars of peace and stability in the region for many years. And even as the President and the Democratic Party continue to encourage all parties to be resolute in the pursuit of peace, we will insist that any Palestinian partner must recognize Israel's right to exist, reject violence, and adhere to existing agreements.

Sounds pretty good. But consider the following issues: