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Democrats Restore Jerusalem to Platform

Published: 06/09/2012 04:18:20 PM GMT
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WASHINGTON - Eyeing a second term in office, US President Barack Obama has ordered the Democratic Party to restore language declaring Al-Quds (occupied Jerusalem) as the capital of Israel to the party platform.“The preside (more)

WASHINGTON - Eyeing a second term in office, US President Barack Obama has ordered the Democratic Party to restore language declaring Al-Quds (occupied Jerusalem) as the capital of Israel to the party platform.

“The president expressed his view in 2008 and it hasn't changed,” a senior administration official told The New York Times.

“The party platform has not changed from 2008. And the position of the United States government hasn't changed in decades as it relates to Israel's capital and peace negotiations.”

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In the 2008 presidential campaign, the platform of the Democratic Party had declared that “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel”.

But this year, the party dropped the language to demonstrate a more even-handed position in the decades-long Arab-Israeli conflict.

But the change angered the Republicans and pro-Israel groups, forcing Obama to intervene to reinstall the language.

"The news coverage made the president aware of the issue today," one campaign official told Reuters.

"He directed his staff to deal with it immediately. The final language is consistent with the president's own positions."

Obama has declared his support for Jerusalem being the capital of Israel during a speech to the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) before he was president.

But after coming to office, Obama proposed returning Israel to the pre-1967 borders and end its occupation of the Palestinian lands.

Chaos ruled on the floor of the Democratic National Convention as delegates and party leaders held a voice vote three times to decide on reinstalling the language.

Democratic Convention chair Antonio Villaraigosa declared the measure had been approved by a two-thirds vote.

But the restoration of Jerusalem puts the platform, a largely symbolic document, at odds with the official position of the US government, which is that the city's status should be determined in a negotiation between Israelis and Palestinians.


Pro-Israel groups welcomed the Democrat U-turn on Jerusalem.

"We welcome reinstatement to the Democratic platform of the language affirming Jerusalem as Israel's capital," the influential pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC said in a statement cited by Reuters.

"Together, these party platforms reflect strong bipartisan support for the US-Israel relationship."

But the Republicans seized on the flap to criticize Obama's policies on Israel.

"Mitt Romney has consistently stated his belief that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel," spokeswoman Andrea Saul said.

She said Obama needs to state "in unequivocal terms whether or not he believes Jerusalem is Israel's capital."

Romney, who is facing Obama in the November election, traveled to Israel in July and received a warm welcome from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He also declared that Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel.

Rebuffing the Republican criticism, the US administration said Obama had been consistent on the issue of Jerusalem.

"The position on Jerusalem held by this administration, this president, is exactly the same position that presidents and administrations have held since 1967 - presidents of both parties, administrations of both parties," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

Al-Quds is home to Al-Haram Al-Sharif, which includes Islam's third holiest shrine Al-Aqsa Mosque, and represents the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Israel occupied the holy city in the 1967 war and later annexed it in a move not recognized by the international community or UN resolutions.

Most countries, including the United States, have not recognized Israel's declaration and have kept their embassies in the coastal city of Tel Aviv.Previous US presidential candidates, including Senator Obama in June 2008, have referred to Jerusalem as Israel's capital ahead of elections, only to row back when taking power and suggest the issue should be resolved by negotiations.

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