A new letter, signed by over 30 former diplomats and national security officials, calls on the Democratic National Committee to revise the Israel plank of its party platform. The letter calls for Palestinian rights, a two-state solution, an end to settlement expansion, and a rejection of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to annex portion of the West Bank. It also calls for “clear opposition to violence, terrorism, and incitement from all sides.”
Signatories include a number of Obama administration officials, among them former Deputy National Security Advisors Ben Rhodes and Avril Haines.
“Past party platforms have rightly stated a commitment to Israel’s security and included condemnations of threats and actions against our ally, in addition to embracing a two-state outcome,” reads the letter. “Those platforms have, however, also been nearly silent on the rights of Palestinians, on Israeli actions that undermine those rights and the prospects for a two-state solution, and on the need for security for both peoples.”
The letter was celebrated by the liberal, pro-Israel group J Street. “Demonstrating strong support for the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians is both smart policy and politically popular — that’s why it’s rapidly becoming a consensus position in the Democratic Party,” said its president Jeremy Ben-Ami in a statement. “As these leading foreign policy experts make clear, it’s time for Democratic leadership to fully embrace these positions in the party platform. That can help pave the way for the next administration to successfully promote peace and to undo the tremendous damage wrought by the Middle East policies of President Trump.”
While the proposed revisions seem to be aimed at the policies of Netanyahu and Trump, they fail to address one of the major progressive demands on the subject: the conditioning of military aid to Israel. That issue was brought up repeatedly by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders on the presidential campaign trail and has majority support from the party’s base. A Data for Progress poll from last fall found that 65% of Democratic voters think aid to Israel should be conditioned in an effort to curb the country’s human rights abuses. “These results suggest that Democratic voters are not holding Israel to a different standard than they would hold any other recipient of US military aid dollars,” Data for Progress fellow and IfNotNow co-founder Emma Saltzberg wrote at the time, “They also suggest that Democratic politicians who float the possibility of changes to the US–Israel aid relationship do so with the support of their party’s voters.”
In a recent interview with Mondoweiss, Arab American Institute co-founder and author James Zogby explained how he believes two-state solution rhetoric and opposition to annexation aren’t sufficient responses to the current reality. Zogby fought for language on Palestine to be added to the Democratic platform as part of Jesse Jackson campaigns in the 1980s and Bernie’s 2016 campaign.
“Behind the argument for the two-state solution these days is racism. Even the arguments against annexation are racist,” said Zogby, “I mean, look at this letter that 120 Jewish leaders sent to Trump arguing against annexation. It said that if the West Bank gets annexed, it will force Israel to deal with a whole bunch of other problems. They would rather continue to support two states, but allow the things that happen on the ground to continue. What’s happening is a cancer that is eating up the territories. Settlement expansion, settler violence, extending property lines to encroach on Palestinian areas, house demolitions.”
In a conference with Jewish Democrats last month, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said that two-state solution language would be included in the platform. “We want to make sure that our platform, which is our values statement of our party, is a platform that you can be proud of, a platform that, again, reaffirms our commitment to a two-state solution — negotiated directly by the parties,” said Perez.