Democratic platform abandons pro-Israel positions on borders, refugees, Hamas

If you rely only on mainstream media, you might think that the Democratic Party's plank on Israel ended up solidly pro-Israel, notwithstanding a raucous dispute over Jerusalem.  After all, the delegates restored language on Jerusalem as the capital of Israel -- or so the chair ruled even though the decibel count on the voice vote fell short of the required two-thirds margin.  But the final upshot nevertheless was to reaffirm a pro-Israel stance that the party had adopted in previous presidential-election cycles.  Thus, going into the final 2012 campaign laps, the Democrats are again fully supportive of Israel.

If that's your view, you are wrong, wrong, and wrong -- on three issues that rank as important as the future of Jerusalem.

Four years ago, the Democratic Party took a firm stance against Hamas, the terrorist group which now rules Gaza.  The 2008 platform called for complete isolation of Hamas until it renounces terrorism, recognizes Israel's right to exist and abides by past agreements.  Since Hamas is publicly opposed to any such transformation, this made it clear that Democrats were committed to keep Hamas in full pariah status.

In the new 2012 platform, the anti-Hamas language is completely gone.  Hamas remains a mortal threat to Israel, but the Democratic Party now sees no need to line up with Israel on this existential issue.  Never mind that Hamas comprises half of the Palestinian equation, the party of President Obama has nothing to say about it.

In 2008, the Democratic platform took an unequivocal position against a "right of return" to Israel for millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants.  The 2008 draft declared that Palestinian refugees instead would have to be resettled in a future Palestinian state - not in Israel.

That language also has been completely dropped from this year's platform.  Gone is the Democratic Party's awareness that a Palestinian "right of return" to Israel would deal a demographic death blow to the Jewish state.  Another existential pro-Israel stand ends up tossed in the dustbin of Democratic Party history.

Four years ago, the platform affirmed a solemn U.S. commitment -- spelled out in a letter by President George W. Bush to then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon -- that Israel could not be expected to withdraw to the pre-1967 armistice lines in any final peace deal.  The 2008 plank on borders made it clear that any such retreat would leave Israel highly vulnerable and threaten its very survival.  The 2008 language echoed a widely used term that any such withdrawal would saddle Israel with  "Auschwitz borders."

The language on borders now is gone.

The Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C., adopted a platform that turns its back on three Israeli existential imperatives - on dealing with Palestinian terrorism, on achieving secure and recognized borders, and on preventing a flood of Palestinians from swamping the Jewish state.

On all these issues, the Democratic Party - once a forceful Israel supporter - stands now silent, opening the way for President Obama to pressure Israel for more concessions and compromises if he wins a second term.

Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers

If you rely only on mainstream media, you might think that the Democratic Party's plank on Israel ended up solidly pro-Israel, notwithstanding a raucous dispute over Jerusalem.  After all, the delegates restored language on Jerusalem as the capital of Israel -- or so the chair ruled even though the decibel count on the voice vote fell short of the required two-thirds margin.  But the final upshot nevertheless was to reaffirm a pro-Israel stance that the party had adopted in previous presidential-election cycles.  Thus, going into the final 2012 campaign laps, the Democrats are again fully supportive of Israel.

If that's your view, you are wrong, wrong, and wrong -- on three issues that rank as important as the future of Jerusalem.

Four years ago, the Democratic Party took a firm stance against Hamas, the terrorist group which now rules Gaza.  The 2008 platform called for complete isolation of Hamas until it renounces terrorism, recognizes Israel's right to exist and abides by past agreements.  Since Hamas is publicly opposed to any such transformation, this made it clear that Democrats were committed to keep Hamas in full pariah status.

In the new 2012 platform, the anti-Hamas language is completely gone.  Hamas remains a mortal threat to Israel, but the Democratic Party now sees no need to line up with Israel on this existential issue.  Never mind that Hamas comprises half of the Palestinian equation, the party of President Obama has nothing to say about it.

In 2008, the Democratic platform took an unequivocal position against a "right of return" to Israel for millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants.  The 2008 draft declared that Palestinian refugees instead would have to be resettled in a future Palestinian state - not in Israel.

That language also has been completely dropped from this year's platform.  Gone is the Democratic Party's awareness that a Palestinian "right of return" to Israel would deal a demographic death blow to the Jewish state.  Another existential pro-Israel stand ends up tossed in the dustbin of Democratic Party history.

Four years ago, the platform affirmed a solemn U.S. commitment -- spelled out in a letter by President George W. Bush to then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon -- that Israel could not be expected to withdraw to the pre-1967 armistice lines in any final peace deal.  The 2008 plank on borders made it clear that any such retreat would leave Israel highly vulnerable and threaten its very survival.  The 2008 language echoed a widely used term that any such withdrawal would saddle Israel with  "Auschwitz borders."

The language on borders now is gone.

The Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C., adopted a platform that turns its back on three Israeli existential imperatives - on dealing with Palestinian terrorism, on achieving secure and recognized borders, and on preventing a flood of Palestinians from swamping the Jewish state.

On all these issues, the Democratic Party - once a forceful Israel supporter - stands now silent, opening the way for President Obama to pressure Israel for more concessions and compromises if he wins a second term.

Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers

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