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Does DNC Platform Indicate Policy Shift on “Right of Return”?

In 2008, the DNC platform stated that “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel.” Apparently the DNC forgot to add: “until President Obama takes office.” That affirmation of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was removed from this year’s platform:

For Jerusalem, the new platform has been brought into line with the Obama administration’s policy of not recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and supporting its division. Jerusalem is unmentioned in the 2012 document, whereas the 2008 and 2004 Democratic Party platforms declared “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel…It should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths.”

It’s troubling that the administration would remove pro-Israel language from the platform, but it’s also not particularly surprising. The Obama administration has repeatedly refused to name Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, much to the dismay of Israel supporters.

But that’s not even the most disturbing omission in the latest DNC platform. The 2008 document included this strong objection to the Palestinian “right of return,” which would destroy Israel’s identity as a Jewish state:

The creation of a Palestinian state through final status negotiations, together with an international compensation mechanism, should resolve the issue of Palestinian refugees by allowing them to settle there, rather than in Israel. All understand that it is unrealistic to expect the outcome of final status negotiations to be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949. Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel. The parties have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations. It should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths.

This language is nowhere to be found in the 2012 platform. While the RNC also removed references to the refugee issue in its platform this year, that’s actually an improvement from its vague 2008 stance, which called for the Israelis and Palestinians to settle the issue between themselves. The RNC platforms from 2008 and 2012 affirm Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The DNC, in contrast, weakened its positions on both the refugee issue and Jerusalem since 2008. Why did they water it down? Was it to conform with Obama administration stances that are less supportive of Israel?

While the DNC 2012 platform omitted these critical statements, it also made some additions since 2008: Roughly 178 words touting President Obama as a great friend to Israel. Apparently the DNC had to remove the parts about Jerusalem and the Palestinian right of return to make room for the paragraph telling us what a pro-Israel stalwart Obama is.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu famously lectured Obama about the right of return in 2011, indicating their disagreement on the issue. But until now, it was assumed that the Obama administration at least held the standard position that the Palestinian refugee situation would be settled within the confines of a future Palestinian state. Is the Obama administration now indicating that the refugee issue will be up for debate during negotiations? If not, why was the language removed?

UPDATE: Full quote on Palestinian refugees from the 2008 DNC platform added above.



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