The kerfuffle over the initial non-mention of Jerusalem in the Democratic Party platform throws into particularly sharp relief just how disconnected are discourse and reality when it comes to Israel-Palestine.
To recap, the last three Democratic platforms have included language to the effect that Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel. At first, and despite AIPAC vetting, the 2012 platform did not. Republicans pounced, and President Barack Obama himself is said to have intervened to restore the language, which was read out for approval by two-thirds voice vote at the convention in Charlotte. But roll the tape, which clearly shows that chair Antonio Villaraigosa, mayor of Los Angeles, was compelled to hold three separate votes because the nays sounded at least as loud as the yeas. So Villaraigosa simply decreed the changes confirmed, to audible boos from the crowd.
The big media, writes Philip Weiss, went into full-on “humminah humminah humminah mode” when chewing over the hot mess. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Andrea Mitchell and Lawrence O’Donnell all tried to pass off the arbitrary platform alteration as business as usual or just changed the subject. On PBS, liberal Mark Shields stammered out his usual trudging circumspection: “This is a — ah, ah — a core issue, for both parties. And it’s — ah, ah — not unexpected that there would be a flap over it.” Back at MSNBC, only Chris Hayes addressed the substance of the matter, labeling the revisions as “bad policy” and “a craven capitulation that empowers the worst elements among the people who are working on this issue.” True, as far as it goes. Yet the last word went to Al Sharpton, who returned the discussion to campaign tactics, crediting Obama with making sure that the platform “reflected his views,” if not necessarily the party’s, unlike Mitt Romney, he of the “bait and switch.” Obama had to intercede because he was being attacked for the original platform from the right.
Ex-State Department official Aaron David Miller adopts a version of the Sharpton line: “More likely, the platform’s drafters wanted to steer clear of Jerusalem entirely and hoped nobody would notice. But of course they did. What planet were the drafters who omitted Jerusalem living on? It’s silly season, the campaign is on, the Republicans see a wedge on Israel, and it’s Jerusalem. Need I say more?” In other words, it’s all meaningless pandering to the small, but geographically strategic knots of single-issue pro-Israel voters, the same old game delectably lampooned a while back by Dimi Reider at +972.
This is almost surely the case, and, even if each promises that he will, neither Obama or Romney is likely to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem or rescind the long-standing US policy that the status of Jerusalem is to be negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians.
So, yes, there is a disconnect between campaign rhetoric and actual policy, which remains informed by the concepts of the classic two-state solution. And there is a widening gap between those concepts and the one-state reality that Reider and other far-sighted analysts increasingly discern. But there is also a yawning chasm between the reality on the ground and the terms in which Israel-Palestine is conventionally discussed, not on the Internet or on campus, but in the corridors of power and in the pages that shape elite opinion, and thus a great deal of public opinion, in the US.
There, two-state logic reigns, but not supreme, both because revanchist views persist and because, when push comes to shove, the US elite does not really consider Israel-Palestine to be all that important. Witness the MSNBC discussion, where Hayes gamely articulates the two-state point of view and is dismissed, because his older politico colleagues care much less about the substance of the issue than the atmospherics.
It’s hard to say, in fact, what the chorus of nays in Charlotte actually means. Genuine discomfort with the pro-Israel drift of US policy? Anger at the bipartisan kowtowing to Israel and the pro-Israel lobby? Mere reflexive attachment to two-state nostrums? Resentment of the high-handed subversion of democratic procedure? Some combination of the above? Jewish Voice for Peace splits the difference, heralding a “deep division within the Democratic Party over its approach to Israel and Palestine.”
One reading of the platform episode is that the nays are the future, a portent of the slipping grip of the pro-Israel lobby on what is permissible to write and say, a marker of a sea change in public opinion that will eventually find stronger and more consequential expression in Washington.
Another view would be that the relentless expansion of Jewish colonies and other “facts on the ground” has outpaced the discourse — long since. The coming rupture is not in US or international policy, but in the very notion that international engagement can or will steer the people in Israel-Palestine toward a “solution” of any kind. Rather, the reality of one all-controlling sovereign political entity on the ground will dictate the discourse, which presumably will (slowly) shift to denunciation of various kinds of Israeli discrimination against the Palestinians under Israeli rule. And perhaps then it won’t matter so much if the US does move its embassy to Jerusalem.
And still a third possibility, perhaps the darkest, is that the disconnect can and will continue to deepen for a long time to come, with no “solution” and no acknowledgement of reality either.