CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — A top Democratic official said Thursday that a decision to ditch a party policy naming Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, later ordered reversed by President Barack Obama, was not deliberate.
The official weighed in on a row which rattled the first two days of the Democratic National Convention in North Carolina, as delegates passed their platform — the list of policies to which the party is committed.
“The omission, despite what you might think, was not deliberate,” the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
“Once it became public, the Republicans wanted to gin this up, but as soon as the president heard about it, he knew that wasn’t consistent with his personal views and he said put it back, and that’s what we did.”
Delegates had faced a torrent of Republican criticism and some from within the party after dropping pro-forma references to God and the party’s support for Jerusalem being recognized as the capital of Israel.
A campaign official told AFP that the president, who has been hammered by Republicans who see him as too tough on Israel, personally intervened to have language on Jerusalem, a feature of past party platforms, restored.
The move appeared to anger many delegates in the convention hall on Wednesday.
Since 1992, Democrats have stated unequivocally that “Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” but the US embassy remains in Tel Aviv pending an agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians on “final status” issues.
Presidents, including Obama, grant annual waivers to a law requiring the US embassy to be moved to Jerusalem.
The State Department made clear on Thursday that whatever the Democratic Party platform might say, US foreign policy had not changed.
“Long-standing administration policy, both in this administration and in previous administrations across both parties, is that the status of Jerusalem is an issue that should be resolved in final status negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians,” a spokesman, Patrick Ventrell, said.
“You know what the position is. It hasn’t changed for decades,” Ventrell said, when pressed by journalists to say which city — Tel Aviv or Jerusalem — was considered the Israeli capital.
Thanks in large part to the influence of Jewish voters in key battleground states like Florida, relations with Israel are a hot button issue in US elections.