Conventional Wisdom

Giving Up

When it comes to Israel, the American Jewish right won’t take yes for an answer. Today the Democrats released their party platform, and almost instantly, neoconservatives became apoplectic, with the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin dubbing it the “most radically unsupportive statement of policy on Israel by a major U.S. party since the founding of the state of Israel.”

The reason? In 2008, the Democratic platform said America and its allies would “continue to isolate Hamas until it renounces terrorism, recognizes Israel’s right to exist and abides by past agreements.” This time, the platform merely said that “we will insist that any Palestinian partner must recognize Israel’s right to exist, reject violence, and adhere to existing agreements” but didn’t mention Hamas by name. In 2008, the platform said that “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel” and that the city’s status “is a matter for final status negotiations.” This year, the platform didn’t mention Jerusalem at all.

But in their desperation to paint Obama as Norman Finklestein in a better suit, Rubin and co. are missing the reality under their nose: The main difference between the 2008 and the 2012 platforms is that the latter deemphasizes the Palestinian issue altogether. The real message of the Democrats’ 2012 platform is exactly the one Republicans have been longing to hear: We give up.

Compare the 2008 and 2012 platforms side by side. In 2008, the Democrats began their Israel section with the peace process: “For more than three decades, Israelis, Palestinians, Arab leaders, and the rest of the world have looked to America to lead the effort to build the road to a secure and lasting peace.” Then it went on to say how much America loves Israel. The 2012 platform, by contrast, starts with Israel love and spends an entire paragraph elaborating on it without ever mentioning the Palestinians. In 2008, in other words, America’s support for Israel was defined as a means towards the larger goal of Israel-Palestinian peace. In 2012, support for Israel is an end in itself.

And even when the 2012 platform does mention the peace process, it doesn’t convey nearly the same urgency. In 2008, the Democrats pledged to “take an active role to help secure a lasting settlement of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.” In 2012, the word “active” is gone, replaced with the weaker formulation: “President Obama and the Democratic Party seek peace between Israelis and Palestinians.” In 2008, the platform insisted that “sustained American leadership for peace and security will require patient efforts and the personal commitment of the President of the United States.” This year, there is no such pledge of “personal” presidential “commitment,” just a formulaic promise to “continue to encourage all parties to be resolute in the pursuit of peace.”

In fact, the Israel-Palestine section of this year’s platform is about 70 words shorter than it was in 2008. That’s the reason it doesn’t specifically mention Jerusalem and Hamas. It’s not that Obama and company are hatching a bold plan to force Israel into concessions more dramatic than the ones they wanted in 2008. They’re not hatching anything at all, which is why this Democratic platform—unlike the last one—doesn’t go into detail about the terms of a two state deal.

At root, the 2012 platform is an admission of defeat. In 2008, the Israel section began with a rousing declaration of American leadership: “For more than three decades, Israelis, Palestinians, Arab leaders, and the rest of the world have looked to America to lead the effort to build the road to a secure and lasting peace.” Now there’s no such statement. And for good reason: Today the world no longer looks to America to lead a peace process. From Europe to Turkey to Egypt, America’s current and former allies have largely given up on the U.S.-led peace process, and the 2012 platform is yet more evidence that the Obama administration has essentially given up on it too.

So don’t fret, Jennifer Rubin. Rejoice! Team Obama is all but acknowledging that in a second term, the two state solution will be an afterthought. Which should make Hamas very happy indeed.