Democratic Party Platform Expected to Express Strong Support for Israel

Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon
Washington
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-Vice President Joe Biden.
A 2016 file photo of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and then-Vice President Joe Biden in Davos, Switzerland.Credit: Haim Zach/GPO
Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon
Washington

WASHINGTON – The Democratic Party’s policy platform for the 2020 fall elections will include a statement of strong support for the U.S.-Israel relationship, including the continuation of U.S. military aid to Israel and recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The platform language on that issue, which is being finalized this week, represents a victory for former Vice President Joe Biden and his supporters in the party over the party’s more left-wing flank, which has sought to adopt a more critical approach towards Israel.

The platform will state that Democrats believe in a “strong, secure and democratic Israel” as “vital” to the interests of the United States. It will also express an “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s qualitative military edge, and specifically to the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding, which the Obama administration signed with Israel and which gives Israel the most sizeable military aid that the United States has ever provided.

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Biden, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, has expressed 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.” The language that will likely be included in platform is much more in line with Biden’s approach.

The platform will also express opposition to unilateral steps by either Israel or the Palestinians, including unilateral Israeli annexation of West Bank settlements. It will also call for direct negotiations between the two sides with the aim of reaching a two-state solution. With regard to the Palestinians, the platform will state that they have the right “to live in freedom and security in a viable state of their own.”

While the platform represents a more moderate and traditional approach towards Israel than the ideas pushed by the more progressive wing of the party, it also reflects some major policy differences with the Trump administration. The platform will include a pledge, for example, to renew U.S. civilian aid to the Palestinians, which had been completely cut off by President Trump.

The Trump administration cut funding for Palestinian hospitals that treat cancer patients and the blind and ended support for civil society organizations that promote cooperation between Jewish and Arab children. In April of this year, however, the administration announced $5 million in aid to Palestinian hospitals to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

On the sensitive issue of Jerusalem, the platform will likely state that the city’s final status should be determined through negotiations, but that it should remain the capital of Israel. At the same time, it will call for renewed American diplomatic ties with the Palestinians – an apparent hint at reopening the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem that served the city’s Palestinian population and was shut down by the current ambassador to Israel, David Friedman. The Palestinian Authority decided to boycott the Trump administration at the end of 2017, following Trump’s declaration that he had taken Jerusalem “off the table” by recognizing the city as the capital of Israel.

The Democratic Party platform will also include opposition to BDS, the boycott, disinvestment and sanctions movement against Israel, as well as attempts to delegitimize Israel.

The New York-based Israel Policy Forum, which promotes a two-state solution, wrote in response to the anticipated platform language: “We welcome the reported inclusion of our policy priorities in the Democratic platform: clear support for two states, unreserved opposition to annexation and unwavering commitment to Israeli security.”

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