WASHINGTON – The Democratic Party platform for the 2020 elections was finalized on Monday, expressing strong support for Israel after the party’s left-wing flank failed to include an amendment allowing a more critical approach toward it.
The platform language regarding Israel will continue reflecting center-left views, while opposing unilateral Israeli annexation of West Bank settlements and calling for a two-state solution.
The Democrats' policy platform also emphasizes the importance of continued U.S. military aid to Israel and recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
In addition, the platform expresses a commitment to the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding that the Obama administration signed with Israel, giving it $3.8 billion in annual aid – the most sizeable military assistance that the United States has ever provided.
This represents a victory for Joe Biden, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, and his supporters within the party.
Biden, who served as vice president in the Obama administration, has taken pride in recent months over his involvement in securing that assistance and strongly rejected calls from the party’s left wing, particularly from Senator Bernie Sanders, to limit or condition aid to Israel, calling such limitations “outrageous.”
On Tuesday, as the party held a virtual vote on the platform’s final wording, Sanders' supporters in this year’s Democratic primary offered an amendment shifting party policy toward Sanders’ approach.
The amendment included conditioning military aid to Israel, as well as stronger language on the need to end the occupation in the West Bank and Israel's military rule over the Palestinians. The amendment was rejected by a large majority, with 117 voting against it and 34 voting in favor.
The language that was eventually approved is still critical of Israel’s settlements in the West Bank and the intention of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to through with unilateral annexation of those settlements.
The platform also includes a pledge to renew U.S. civilian aid to the Palestinians, which had been completely cut off by President Trump and resume diplomatic relations between the U.S. and the Palestinian Authority.
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Dan Shapiro, who served as U.S. ambassador to Israel under the Obama administration, warned that while Democrats are quarreling over platform language, the Trump administration is taking destructive steps that would eliminate any chance for the two-state solution while completely ignoring the Palestinians' needs.
Wendy Sherman, a former senior State Department official in the Obama and Clinton administrations, said that conditioning aid to Israel would not help resolve the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The final platform states that Democrats believe in a “strong, secure and democratic Israel” as “vital” to the interests of the United States. It also expresses an “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s qualitative military edge, and specifically to the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding.
While the platform represents a more moderate and traditional approach toward Israel than that pushed by the more progressive wing of the party, it also reflects some major policy differences to the Trump administration’s approach to the conflict.