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Democrats Split Over Israel in Trying to Define Convention Platform

Image: Democrats Split Over Israel in Trying to Define Convention Platform
Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton speaks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee 2016 Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. on March 21. (Getty Images) 

By    |   Thursday, 26 May 2016 10:36 PM

Democrats are bitterly divided over the Middle East, as representatives of Sen. Bernie Sanders are challenging the party's longstanding support of Israel.

"I have always and will always be 100 percent supportive of Israel’s right to exist and live in peace and security," the Vermont senator and presidential candidate, told The New York Times in a statement. "I also believe that lasting peace in the region will not occur without fair and respectful treatment of the Palestinian people.

"I believe that most Democrats agree with that position and that a strong consensus will be achieved at the Democratic National Convention," he said.

However, two of Sanders' five appointees to the platform drafting committee to the Democratic National Convention, Cornel West and James Zogby, have denounced Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, the Times reports.

They said they believed that rank-and-file Democrats no longer embraced the party’s undying support of Israel's government and have vowed to have those views incorporated into the party's platform for the convention in Philadelphia in July.

"Justice for Palestinians cannot be attained without the lifting of the occupation," West told the Times.

He added that while he recognized the necessity to provide for the security of Jews, who for thousands of years have been a "hated people," he thought that the platform needed to bring more balance to "the plight of an occupied people."

The 15-member committee also has six representatives of front-runner Hillary Clinton and four from Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Times reports.

Sanders is Jewish — and he has attacked Israel’s military stance in the Palestinian territories, according to the report.

He has said, for instance, that the Jewish state used excess force in responding to rockets launched from Hamas-controlled Gaza in 2014.

Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute who has long advocated for the rights of Palestinians, said that Sanders held the most leverage in drafting the convention's platform.

"Any honest assessment would say that the debate on this issue has shifted over the last 30 years — and the platform has reflected that but lagged slightly behind, and it’s now time to catch up," he told the Times. "Clearly most Democrats agree.

"But we will see what happens," Zogby said.

Regarding Clinton, she has been reluctant to criticize Israel, long contending that it has a right to defend itself.

Jake Sullivan, Clinton’s primary foreign policy adviser, told the Times that her six appointees would work against all efforts by Sanders to change the focus of the Israel debate.

"Hillary Clinton's views on Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship are well documented, and she’s confident that her delegates will work to ensure that the party platform reflects them," he said.

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Democrats are bitterly divided over the Middle East, as representatives of Sen. Bernie Sanders are challenging the party's longstanding support of Israel.
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Thursday, 26 May 2016 10:36 PM
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