Congressional Democrats expressed disappointment about the removal from the Democratic Party platform of a reference to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) told JTA on Wednesday that the controversy surrounding the absence of the claim for the first time in decades was “disappointing” because “it raises an issue that’s not an issue,” in the sense that President Obama and congressional Democrats have expressed support for Israeli claims to the city.
Cardin, who is attending the Democratic National Convention this week in Charlotte, said he thought the omisson was unintentional, noting that the platform’s Israel section was focused on Obama’s acheivements, including enhancing security cooperation and isolating Iran.
“The philosophy of this platform is a positive representation of what the president has done,” Cardin said.
Sen. Robert Casey (D-Pa.) said he was “angry” when he learned of the omission. “It’s wrong,” he told JTA, although he added, “these platforms don’t have a lot of meaning in terms of the work I do in the U.S. Senate.”
Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.), who is running for Nevada’s U.S. Senate seat and who is one of the most steadfastly pro-Israel Democrats in Congress, said to say that she was disappointed was an “understatement.”
“I believe with every breath in my body that Jerusalem is the eternal and undivided capital of Israel,” she told JTA, but said Obama’s record was overall supportive, noting the enhanced security relationship and his efforts to push back in the United Nations against anti-Israel measures.
Democratic platform drafters have not fully explained the omission, but have noted that the whole platform was designed to reflect Obama’s achievements, and in such a context, long-term aspirations were set aside.
Republicans have leaped on the omission, claiming that it is further proof that the Obama administration is distanceing itself from Israel. But this year’s Republican Party platform also removes earlier language referring to Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided” capital and calling for the U.S. Embassy to be moved there.
The Republican Jewish Coalition said Wednesday that it would run ads in Jewish newspapers in swing states noting the omissions.
Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, who led a training session for elected Jewish Democrats at the Democratic convention, countered that the Democrats should run their own ad noting that the Democratic platform explicitly threatens the use of military force against Iran should it obtain a nuclear weapon, while the Republican platform is more coy, referring only to “all options.”