Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Republican presidential nominee "Donald Trump, after early on suggesting that he would 'be neutral' and work to earn the trust of both Israelis and Palestinians, has clearly been chastened," Zogby writes. (Image via The Lobe Log)

Israel/Palestine: Bad Policy, Bad Politics

James Zogby

 by The Lobe Log

To understand why the United States fails so miserably in efforts to achieve an Israeli/Palestinian peace, all you need to do is take a look at the mix of bad policy and bad politics found in the Israel/Palestine sections of platforms of both the Republican and Democratic parties.

The Republican document is particularly extreme, even bizarre. Finding opportunities to mention Israel in five different sections, the GOP platform: refers to Israel as “beacon of democracy and humanity”; claims that “support for Israel is an expression of Americanism”; “recognizes Jerusalem as the eternal and indivisible capital of the Jewish state and calls for the American embassy to be moved there; terms the BDS movement “anti-Semitic; “rejects the faulty notion that Israel is an occupier”; and calls for “an immediate halt to all US funding” to entities that admit the Palestinians as a “member state”—singling out the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Because the GOP platform committee specifically rejects any reference to either two states or to recognition of Palestinians as a people, the only time Palestinians are even mentioned in the document is in the context of the funding cut proposed for the UNFCCC.

The Democrats’ platform, though weak, is clearly more sober. They, too, find the need to shower excessive unwarranted praise on Israel, claiming that “a strong and secure Israel is vital to the United States because we share overarching strategic interests and the common values of democracy, equality, tolerance, and pluralism”. The Democrats also “oppose any effort to delegitimize Israel, including at the UN or through the BDS movement”. And, in a weirdly contradictory formulation, the platform both recognizes that Jerusalem is a “matter for final status negotiations”, while at the same time insisting that “it should remain the capital of Israel, an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths”.

"If the platforms’ policies are bad or weak, so too are the political calculations that went into writing them—especially for Democrats."

Finally, while rejecting efforts to include language calling for an end to the occupation and illegal settlements (claiming that these terms “prejudge” issues to be decided in negotiations!), the Democrats, nevertheless, pledge to “continue to work toward a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiated directly by the parties that guarantees Israel’s future as a secure and democratic Jewish state with recognized borders and provides the Palestinians with independence, sovereignty, and dignity”.

Republicans wrote their document haunted by billionaire Sheldon Adelson and threats from far-right evangelical Christians. Their candidate, Donald Trump, after early on suggesting that he would “be neutral” and work to earn the trust of both Israelis and Palestinians, has clearly been chastened. He now relies on the counsel of his hardline pro-Israel son-in-law (the author of Trump’s AIPAC speech).

By adopting a Netanyahu-like approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the GOP will only hasten Israel’s dangerous rightward drift, emboldening both Israel’s extremists, who will feel they can’t lose, and Palestinian extremists, who will feel they have nothing to lose.

For their part, the Democrats wrote their language influenced by one of their own billionaires, Haim Saban (a strong BDS opponent, who secured a written anti-BDS pledge from Hillary Clinton), and haunted by their mistaken fear of “losing votes”—(their code, not mine, for Jewish voters).

The Democrat’s platform claims to want two states and supports “independence, sovereignty, and dignity” for Palestinians. This aspiration is commendable, but when they reject terming Israeli control over Palestinians an occupation and refuse to call for an end to settlements, they give little hope to Palestinians that action will be taken to fulfill their aspirations.

The bottom line is that both platforms are bad policy. If the GOP platform were followed, it would produce policies resulting in disaster, not only for Palestinians and US interests in the Middle East, but for Israel, as well. On the other hand, if the Democrat’s platform were followed, it would result in continuing the region’s depressing and dangerous downward spiral of oppression and violence.

If the platforms’ policies are bad or weak, so too are the political calculations that went into writing them—especially for Democrats. The so-called “political fear” that drives Democrats to shy away from criticism of Israeli policies ignores the very real shifts that have occurred in the attitudes of the electorate. Polls show that: despite the fact that Israel retains a higher approval rating than the Palestinians, by a margin of 65% to 14% American voters believe that Israelis and Palestinians deserve equal rights.

Attitudes have clearly changed, especially among Democratic voters. For example, a strong plurality of Democrats (more than 2 to 1) want settlements to end, believe the US must “get tough with Israel” to force them to stop construction, and feel that boycotts are a legitimate tool that can be used to pressure Israel to end its settlement program. And a plurality of all voters, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, feel that Israel currently receives too much US aid.

It is also clear from polls and from the rapid growth and impact of groups like J Street and Jewish Voice for Peace that speaking the truth about Israeli policies will win and not lose the support of a substantial majority of Jewish voters.

Republicans are calling their document the “strongest pro-Israel platform, ever”, while Democrats are terming their language on Israel/Palestine the “most progressive, ever”. In a sense, both are right. The problem is that I know Israeli peace activists who would seriously question the GOP claim and I know Palestinians who are deeply disappointed with the Democrats’ final product.

© 2019 The Lobe Log
James Zogby

James Zogby

Dr. James J. Zogby is the author of Arab Voices (2010) and the founder and president of the Arab American Institute (AAI), a Washington, D.C.-based organization which serves as the political and policy research arm of the Arab American community. Since 1985, Dr. Zogby and AAI have led Arab American efforts to secure political empowerment in the U.S. Through voter registration, education and mobilization, AAI has moved Arab Americans into the political mainstream. Dr. Zogby has also been personally active in U.S. politics for many years; in 1984 and 1988 he served as Deputy Campaign manager and Senior Advisor to the Jesse Jackson Presidential campaign. In 1988, he led the first ever debate on Palestinian statehood at that year’s Democratic convention in Atlanta, GA. In 2000, 2008, and 2016 he served as an advisor to the Gore, Obama, and Sanders presidential campaigns.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Care Can't Wait': IRA a Good Start, Progressives Say, But More Is Needed

"Americans deserve a full loaf of bread," said health justice advocate Ady Barkan.

Kenny Stancil ·

'I'm Back': Fetterman Returns to Campaign Trail Following May Stroke

"I'm not only grateful to be alive, but also for the campaign we're building together," said the Democratic nominee for Pennsylvania's open U.S. Senate seat.

Kenny Stancil ·

Because Climate Science 'Does Not Grade on a Curve,' Experts Says IRA Not Enough

"There is an urgent need for much more aggressive and far-reaching measures to prevent climate chaos," said the head of one progressive consumer advocacy group.

Brett Wilkins ·

'Game-Changer and Reason for Hope': House Passes Inflation Reduction Act

"We've got more to do," Rep. Pramila Jayapal said on the House floor. "But today, let's celebrate this massive investment for the people."

Jake Johnson ·

'This Is Insane': Search Warrant Indicates FBI Investigating Trump for Espionage Act Violation

"If you're not fed up," said watchdog group Public Citizen, "you're not paying enough attention."

Jessica Corbett ·

Common Dreams Logo