Forward Thinking

GOP Platform Changes Little on Israel

By Liam Hoare

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When it comes to Israel, the Republican Party platform is noteworthy for being more of the same.

The key changes are in style and emphasis as the GOP (along with the Democrats) seek to woo pro-Israel voters. For example, the 2008 platform asserted Israel to be “a vigorous democracy, unique in the Middle East.” But this year’s edition goes much further, arguing that Israel and the United States “are part of the great fellowship of democracies who speak the same language of freedom and justice, and the right of every person to live in peace.”

Just as the 2008 Democratic Party platform asserted that the United States’ “special relationship with Israel [is] grounded in shared interests and shared values,” the Republicans now say they believe that “our alliance is based not only on shared interests, but also shared values.”

This evolution in the perception of the relationship between Israel and the United States has not necessarily altered Republican policy stances. In 2012 as in 2008, the GOP supports “Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state with secure, defensible borders”, maintaining “a qualitative edge in military technology over any potential adversaries”.

On the subject of peace, Republicans continue to uphold their commitment to the peace process as it was conducted by President Bush. The party envisions “two democratic states – Israel with Jerusalem as its capital and Palestine – living in peace and security”. Any agreement will be “settled on the basis of mutually agreed changes reflecting today’s realities as well as tomorrow’s hopes” and negotiated “between the parties themselves with the assistance of the U.S., without the imposition of an artificial timetable.”

The platform committee shot down a proposal from right-wing activists to float a one-state solution, meaning a resolution backing Israel’s right to unfettered rule over the West Bank.

Still, the platform is not a carbon copy of 2008.

In 2008, the GOP supported “moving the American embassy to that undivided capital of Israel”, Jerusalem. This pledge is absent this time around, although conservative groups have tried to hit President Barack Obama hard on his supposed foot-dragging on the issue. And, oddly, Republicans left out a demand that peace negotiations be conducted “without the demand that Israel deal with entities which continue to pledge her destruction.”

Perhaps the most noteworthy omission is the removal of the suggestion in the 2008 document that any peace process must in some fashion forward a “just, fair, and realistic framework for dealing with the Palestinian refugee issue.” Apparently someone in the Republican Party is trying to send a message to the pro-Israel community, and to the Palestinians as well.


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