The Democratic Party platform on Israel could reveal a shift in thinking in the White House. Coming on the heels of a “significant” scale down in planned joint military exercises with Israel and General Martin Dempsey’s comment in London that “I don’t want to be complicit” in an attack on Iran, it perhaps signifies that Obama is interested in recalibrating the relationship with Tel Aviv. Unlike the 2008 platform, the 2012 version omits a declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, does not rule out that some future peace settlement might find Palestinian refugees resettled in the their former homes in Israel, and does not specifically call for the “isolation” of Hamas.
The Republican platform is somewhat different:
We affirm our unequivocal commitment to Israel’s security and will ensure that it maintains a qualitative edge in military technology over any potential adversaries. We support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state with secure, defensible borders; and we envision two democratic states – Israel with Jerusalem as its capital and Palestine – living in peace and security. For that to happen, the Palestinian people must support leaders who reject terror, embrace the institutions and ethos of democracy, and respect the rule of law. We call on Arab governments throughout the region to help advance that goal. Israel should not be expected to negotiate with entities pledged to her destruction. We call on the new government in Egypt to fully uphold its peace treaty with Israel… elements like Hamas and Hezbollah must be isolated because they do not meet the standards of peace and diplomacy of the international community.
Representative Eric Cantor, speaking for the Romney campaign, attacked the Democrats on Tuesday, and called on “all friends of Israel to condemn the president’s abrupt break with our closest ally in the Middle East.” Romney also chimed in:
It is unfortunate that the entire Democratic Party has embraced President Obama’s shameful refusal to acknowledge that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. Four years of President Obama’s repeated attempts to create distance between the United States and our cherished ally have led the Democratic Party to remove from their platform an unequivocal acknowledgment of a simple reality. As president, I will restore our relationship with Israel and stand shoulder to shoulder with our close ally.
Of course Israel is only a “close ally” of the United States metaphorically speaking, but it is interesting to note that some daylight is appearing between the two parties on how the relationship should be framed. Romney will be business as usual but perhaps Obama will push back against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and pay more attention to US interests in the region. It also suggests that Obama might see Israel as a secondary issue in the election except among evangelicals who will not be voting for him anyway.