By removing both God and Jerusalem from the platform, Obama and his fellow Democrats stirred the furies of that American soul at its foundations.
They showed they don’t “get” Israel or God. And by extension, they don’t “get” America.
The intellectually confusing decision to lump Jerusalem and God together in the same amendment no doubt owed to the fact that someone in the party recognized how disastrous the deletions were for their ability to convince wavering voters that the Democratic Party has their back.
And this brings us to the nature of the Democratic Party today. For the amendment to the platform to pass, it needed the support of two-thirds of the convention’s delegates. And so, on Wednesday morning, the convention chairman, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, brought the amendment to the floor for a voice vote.
Much to his obvious shock, the amendment did not receive the requisite support. Calls supporting the amendment were met by at least equally strong calls opposing it. Villaraigosa was forced to call the vote three times before declaring – contrary to the evidence – that the amendment had passed.
More than anything else, the floor vote showed how out of step a large and significant constituency in the Democratic Party is with the basic character of their country. The spectacle should raise concerns among all supporters of Israel who believe Obama’s pro-Israel list is proof they have a safe home today in the Democratic Party.
Jerusalem’s conflation with God in the American imagination is not the only reason so many people attacked the platform’s watered-down language on US-Israel ties. The second reason for the uproar explains why the issue of Obama’s support for Israel is the only foreign policy question that has dogged his administration since he took office. It explains why American support for Israel is a more salient issue for Americans than Iraq or Afghanistan, Britain, Turkey or Russia.
Here, too, Israel’s symbolic importance in the American imagination is central for understanding the matter. Beyond its religious significance, there is a widespread perception that Israel is on the front line of the war against America. As a consequence, Israel is the only foreign policy issue that telegraphs messages about the nature of America’s foreign policy to an otherwise disengaged and largely indifferent American public.
For most Americans – if not for most Democrats – support for Israel is the most important plank of US foreign policy because it indicates the nature of that foreign policy as a whole. A president who supports Israel is a president who has his priorities straight. A president who is hostile to Israel is a president who can’t be trusted on Iran or Russia or China or anything else.
In an apparent effort to end this state of affairs, Obama has adopted a policy towards Iran – whose nuclear program represents the greatest rising threat to US national security – that frames the issue as Israel’s problem.
In so doing, Obama seeks to achieve two goals. First, he seeks to decouple Israel’s national security from America’s national security in the popular imagination. And second, he seeks to diminish popular support for Israel by presenting Israel as a country that is pushing America into an unnecessary war.
Obama’s list of pro-Israel actions is essential to his ability to achieve this specific goal, and through its achievement to convince Americans of the overall success of his foreign policy. The list is essential because it transforms Israel in the public mind from a strategic ally into a strategic basket case in need of America’s constant assistance.
In line with this, it is telling that the amendment of the Democratic platform did not return the 2008 platform’s characterization of Israel as America’s “strongest ally” in the Middle East.
But as the outcry the platform changes provoked demonstrated, Obama has failed to achieve this goal. And this is wonderful news.
On the other had, as long as he has supporters willing to publish op-eds and give interviews devoted to repeating the list, Obama will continue to make the case that he can be trusted on foreign policy despite his abandonment of God, Jerusalem and America’s most vital interests.
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