Israel & Palestine Middle East

Is the Democratic Party Getting Ready to Abandon the Two-State Solution?

Despite the fact that the Democratic National Convention is nearly a month away, the party has already announced their platform for the coming election. Will the progressive influence of Bernie Sanders be able to push the party platform further to the left in stronger favor of Palestinian recognition? Or are the Democrats preparing to all but dump the two-state solution?

It is important to note that the official party platform is not final until the convention at the end of the month. But let’s take a look at how it stands as is. The platform draft does mention that a two-state solution is preferred. However, the party supports a two-state solution as an afterthought to preserving the security of Israel– which is top priority: “producing two states for two peoples, would contribute to regional stability and help sustain Israel’s identity as a Jewish and democratic state. At the same time, the President has made clear that there will be no lasting peace unless Israel’s security concerns are met.” 

The draft mentions nothing of Israel’s occupation or injustices in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Quite the contrary, the Democratic Party is essentially bragging about Israel’s power and military capabilities– thanks to Washington of course:  “The administration has also worked to ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region. And we have deepened defense cooperation—including funding the Iron Dome system—to help Israel address its most pressing threats, including the growing danger posed by rockets and missiles emanating from the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran.” Not only does the party completely ignore any injustice on Israel’s behalf, but they believe the best route to achieve peace and security in the region is by reinforcing Israel’s defense system; rather than addressing the problem of Israeli occupation and going from there.

Instead of calling for some kind of Arab unity in the region, the party is asking for leaders of Arab countries to cave in and sign peace agreements with Israel: President Obama will continue to press Arab states to reach out to Israel. We will continue to support Israel’s peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, which have been pillars of peace and stability in the region for many years.” So Israel needs to be recognized as a state and Arab countries must rally behind them before any peace in Palestine can be addressed? How can this be called a “two state solution” when the only “state” mentioned in this platform is Israel? There is no mention of any Israeli obligations to hold up their end of this deal.

There is also no mention of pushing Israel to stop building settlements or recognize a Palestinian state. Once again, quite the opposite: “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel. The parties have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations.” This is interesting for a few reasons. First of all, the United States doesn’t even recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The United States embassy is in Tel Aviv. Second, this discrepancy caused quite a stir at the DNC in 2012 when the Democratic party tried to leave out any mention of Jerusalem but were pressured by pro-Israel lobbying groups to change the wording. It appears that Jerusalem has become a sort of red line that the Democrats aren’t going to give up.

But will Bernie Sanders’ progressive movement entice the party to swing further to the left on this issue? It may seem silly that Sanders is still in the race at this point, but he’s pushing to at least get some influence on the party platform. For one thing, the Sanders’ camp wants the platform to include language that describes Israeli settlements in Palestine as an occupation. They’re also pushing to exclude Jerusalem as a red-line. In the end, the Democratic party would probably rather lose a few votes over the matter than funding from pro-Israel groups.

Indeed, the growing Boycott Divest Sanction movement in the United States has caused lawmakers to react in the form of anti-BDS reforms. 11 states in the US have already passed some kind of anti-BDS legislation which range from prohibiting pension investment in pro-BDS entities or even investigating funding for pro-BDS entities.

As the party platform states: “ensuring the free flow of commerce essential to the global economy.”  At least the party admits money is the driving force behind their stance on Israel and the Middle East. As the Democratic Party moves further to the right, it is unlikely they will heed the progressive demands from the Sanders’ camp or “radical” voters to change any stance on Israel. And with a strong influence from lobbying groups in American politics, this stance isn’t likely to change anytime in the foreseeable future.

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