Via the Washington Free Beacon and Jeff Dunetz, who zeroes in on four key phrases that didn’t make the cut this time. Compare for yourself, though: The Israel section starts on page 38 of the 2008 platform and page 63 of the 2012 platform. Key bit from the ’08 document:
It is in the best interests of all parties, including the United States, that we take an active role to help secure a lasting settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a democratic, viable Palestinian state dedicated to living in peace and security side by side with the Jewish State of Israel. To do so, we must help Israel identify and strengthen those partners who are truly committed to peace, while isolating those who seek conflict and instability, and stand with Israel against those who seek its destruction. The United States and its Quartet partners should continue to isolate Hamas until it renounces terrorism, recognizes Israel’s right to exist, and abides by past agreements. Sustained American leadership for peace and security will requirepatient efforts and the personal commitment of the President of the United States. The creation of a Palestinian state through final status negotiations, together with an international compensation mechanism, should resolve the issue of Palestinian refugees by allowing them to settle there, rather than in Israel. All understand that it is unrealistic to expect the outcome of final status negotiations to be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949. Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel. The parties have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations. It should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths.
And the key bit from the new one:
It is precisely because of this commitment that President Obama and the Democratic Party seek peace between Israelis and Palestinians. A just and lasting Israeli-Palestinian accord, 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. 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. And even as the President and the Democratic Party continue to encourage all parties to be resolute in the pursuit of peace, we will insist that any Palestinian partner must recognize Israel’s right to exist, reject violence, and adhere to existing agreements.
To be clear, both platforms preface the above sections with passages stressing America’s commitment to Israel’s security, with the new one declaring, “A strong and secure Israel is vital to the United States not simply because we share strategic interests, but also because we share common values.” What’s different is that there’s nothing in the new one about isolating Hamas, nothing about the status of Jerusalem (as Dunetz notes, Jay Carney has been squirrelly about this at briefings too), nothing about the Palestinians settling in their new state instead of in Israel, i.e. the right of return, and nothing about the 1949 lines. How come?
Three possibilities, none of which are mutually exclusive. One: President Obama is more reluctant than Candidate Obama to draw lines in the sand since he’s actually in charge of U.S. foreign policy now. Why tie his own hands with needless pledges, especially in light of the fluidity of regional politics after the Arab Spring? The Hamas omission in particular, I think, is his way of recognizing that he might have to talk to those degenerates if Hamas’s new buddies in Cairo insist on it as a condition to keeping a cold peace with Israel.
Two: Obama and his brain trust decided months ago that they were going to try to win this election by turning out their base, not by winning over centrists, many of whom are a lost cause after three grueling years of Hopenchange. In that vein, O might be calculating that he can retain Jewish support with a strong but vague commitment to Israel’s security while pleasing his base by dropping some of the rhetoric that the pro-Palestinian side most dislikes. There are other tweaks to the platform that seem to reflect this, from broad strokes like basing the party’s entire deficit-reduction strategy on tax hikes to small but telling stylistic flourishes like this. The One is no more bound by his party’s platform than Romney is by his (which is why the left’s heavy breathing over the no-exceptions abortion passage in the GOP platform was so silly), so why not use it to throw some candy at the voters he most needs in November?
Three: Could be that Obama’s using the Israel section of the platform to signal his displeasure with Netanyahu for the saber-rattling lately over Iran’s nuclear program. Relations between the two governments have turned increasingly sour — read Sunday night’s Quotes of the Day for a taste — and O surely knows that while maybe one in 10,000 rank-and-file Democrats will pay any attention to the platform, Bibi’s office surely will. I can’t quite believe O would be that petty, though, especially since any perception of softening on Israel’s security could cost him dearly with pro-Israel Democrats, but who knows? Supposedly, he thinks he’s in the driver’s seat on the election. Maybe he’s confident enough to send a little message to Netanyahu this week. Exit quotation from Alan Dershowitz, who says he’s planning to call his contacts in the White House immediately: “I think one shouldn’t give too much weight to platform pronouncements, but in this case, I think the omissions are troubling — particularly the omission about the Palestinian refugee issue and Hamas are, I think, deeply troubling.”