The Democratic platform battle over Palestinian human rights continues to bubble away on the back burner; but the press contains hints that the Clinton forces are more determined than ever to cut a deal to make the issue disappear. The liberal Zionist group J Street suggests the deal that could resolve the division: including opposition to “settlements” entrenching the “occupation” in the platform and leaving it at that. No reference to Jerusalem, Gaza, let alone boycott, all of which have been a source of angry contention between Clintonites and Sandersites.
Here are some of the news-droppings. Andrew Romano at Yahoo news says that Clintonites are willing to yield on domestic issues to make Palestinians go poof:
Sanders simply doesn’t have much leverage left… If Sanders & Co. were to threaten an ugly floor flight over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — and at the initial platform hearings, West and Zogby have already clashed with Clinton supporters over terms like “occupation” — it’s possible that Team Clinton might try to convince them to back down by ceding ground elsewhere.
This would be a risky move on Sanders’ part; Clinton has already rejected many of his demands, including free public-college tuition and single-payer health care, and much of the rest of the party would not look kindly on a floor fight. But who knows how far the senator is willing to go to satisfy his supporters — and to secure his progressive legacy?
David Weigel in the Washington Post also says that the Clintonites are digging in on Palestine, throwing bones to Sanders elsewhere, in his determination to have ‘‘the most progressive platform’’ in party history.
Sanders’ allies on the drafting platform committee have struggled to get the party to endorse new language on Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians.
But in conversations with Clinton delegates, there have been reasons for optimism on the rest of the Sanders policy planks — Medicare for all, for example — and on reform of superdelegates.
The establishment clearly regards Palestine as a third rail, for fundraising/media-consensus/November reasons. Jewish Insider publishes a threatening email from an establishment pro-Israel figure:
Former Rep. Henry Waxman emails… “Those who litigate the particulars of a two-state solution between the Israelis and Palestinians by fighting for controversial language in the Democratic platform are severely misguided. Make no mistake: Inserting unnecessarily contentious changes to the platform would serve only to hurt our nominee in November and undermine the prospect of a two-state solution during the next administration.”
What is unnecessarily contentious language? Evidently, occupation and Jerusalem and boycott. But J Street, the Israel lobby for the Democratic base, sees a compromise. It says the divisions will go away if only the committee will adopt a “new consensus” in the platform. “It’s time to add language noting concern about the relentless expansion of settlements, which entrench the occupation and endanger peace.” Both Sanders and Clinton will be for that, says J Street, and so will American Jews. J Street portrays Hillary Clinton as a big supporter of Palestinian rights.
Some have warned that adding language about Palestinian rights and the importance of ending the occupation will spark intraparty battles. But Hillary Clinton championed these issues as Secretary of State and Senator Bernie Sanders has raised them again and again during this campaign. Moreover, such views are completely in line with those of an overwhelming majority of American Jews and Democrats more broadly.
You and your fellow committee members have an opportunity to update the party’s platform to bring it into line with this new consensus — I sincerely hope you’ll seize it.
There is no mention of Jerusalem here, of course. Too divisive. Jerusalem divided the Democratic rank and file from the establishment at the 2012 convention. And nothing about Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), on which Clinton is a hardliner, but which many Sandersites support.
In another sign that J Street is forging a consensus on the platform, it publishes a letter co-signed by platform committee members Rep. Keith Ellison, a Sandersite, and Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a Clintonite, on the “consensus” language, which includes a nod to Palestinian conditions:
Palestinians struggle under an unjust occupation that deprives them of the rights, opportunities and independence that they deserve….
So as we and our colleagues work over the next few weeks to frame our party’s platform, we’re confident that we can seize this moment and confirm the consensus vision of peace, security and human dignity shared by our party and its supporters.
While here is evidence that the conflict wants to get politicized in the US mainstream: Nathan Guttman at the Forward says that a rightwing pro-Israel group led by an Orthodox Jew is trying to push the Republican Party to dump its platform language favoring the two-state solution so as to accommodate rightwing Israel’s desire to have all the land to itself.
the alliance will attempt to convert the Republicans into Israel’s best American friend, starting with the platform. Indeed, in the previous election cycle, a group of Republican Jews launched an unsuccessful effort to change the platform and eliminate the endorsement of a two-state solution. It was AIPAC, according to two activists involved in the talks at the time, that convinced RNC platform committee members to stick to the old language.
The leader of that group, Jeff Ballabon, shares a desire of many on the left: to politicize the issue:
“Elections after elections, the establishment groups tell us it’s a win-win situation because both [parties] are good for Israel,” Ballabon said. “We’re saying it’s not so.
Note that J Street and AIPAC want the same thing: calm, pro forma support for the two-state solution. Air your differences privately. The liberal Zionist lobby is virtually indistinguishable from the oldline rightwing lobby, AIPAC, when it comes to keeping the issue from being politicized, and thereby keeping politicians from quarreling openly with one another or with Israel.
J Street has taken a very establishment position on Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), which was a big flashpoint in the Democratic platform debate. Sanders proxy Cornel West endorsed it; Clinton surrogate Robert Wexler said it must be defeated and now. J Street has met lately with a rightwing Israeli official, Gilad Erdan, over how to combat BDS. J Street’s Rachel Lerner says at the Forward that the meeting was a sign of J Street’s growing importance as the representative of American Jews.
“Given our work on this issue, the Israeli government should see J Street as an important group to speak with,” she writes.
It is getting harder and harder to tell J Street and AIPAC apart. The two centrist agendas are closer than ever now that the left is supporting BDS and the right is supporting Israeli expansion.
Meanwhile, the Democratic platform battle on June 9 continues to resonate in the left-leaning press. And Rania Khalek at EI reminds us of the stakes: “In the last two years alone, support for Palestinians among liberal Democrats has nearly doubled.” Close to half of US students see Israel as an apartheid state, she says.
“Deeply rattled, pro-Israel groups are desperately pouring resources into suppressing BDS…. So when Sanders appointed West to the platform committee and signaled his intention to push the Democrats on Palestine, the political establishment went into an all-out panic.”
To be continued. It will be fascinating to see how much of the Democratic base speaks up for Palestinian rights in Philadelphia, outside the convention and on the floor.