ATLANTA (Jul. 18)
Only hours before the Democratic National Convention opened here Monday night, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis and the Rev. Jesse Jackson had their long-awaited private meeting and apparently ironed out their major differences.
Jackson said, however, that he still plans to press some of his proposed changes in the party platform on the convention floor, although he did not specifically mention the Middle East when asked which of the issues were important to him.
The meeting Monday allowed the Dukakis and Jackson representatives to resume negotiations on the platform planks that were broken off last Tuesday, after Dukakis had announced that he had selected Sen. Lloyd Bentsen of Texas to be his vice presidential running mate.
Bentsen participated in Monday’s meeting at Dukakis’ hotel.
Unconfirmed reports were circulating here Monday that an agreement was in the works to include support for the “legitimate rights of the Palestinians” in the platform.
The 3,500-word platform, approved by the platform committee in Denver June 26, does not mention the Palestinians.
Instead, it reaffirms the “special relationship with Israel” and pledges to “provide new leadership to deliver the promise of peace and security through negotiations that has been held out to Israel and its neighbors by the Camp David accords.”
In Denver, the Dukakis forces easily defeated a substitute plank by Jackson representatives, that also called for Palestinian “self-determination,” which in Middle East parlance has come to mean a code word for a Palestinian state.
AGAINST CHANGE ON MIDDLE EAST
Rep. William Gray (D-Pa.), who is chairman of the platform-drafting committee, said Monday he was against any change in the Middle East plank because the platform was written in concise, carefully worded language.
“If you alter that language, even slightly, it can change rather drastically the meaning because of the brevity of the statement,” Gray said at a meeting sponsored by AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Hyman Bookbinder, who is an adviser on Jewish and Middle East affairs to the Dukakis campaign, told reporters that there will be no change “in substance” on the Middle East plank.
He added that additions to the plank that use the terms of the Camp David accords would not be such a change. Those accords used the term “legitimate rights” of the Palestinians.
One source noted that the Jewish community might consider any change in the platform wording as a weakening of the Democratic Party’s position on Israel. He said it all depends on how it was perceived by Jews.
Thomas Dine, AIPAC’s executive director, warned the convention delegates attending the AIPAC meeting that the Israelis are closely watching what they do at the convention. Dine said that what “the U.S. does or does not do can be fateful for that vulnerable nation.”
But Dine expressed confidence that those who want to see a lessening of support for Israel “are going to be disappointed by what happens here in Atlanta and by what happens in the general election.”
He predicted that there will be no signal of lessening of support for Israel or any steps taken “that will jeopardize the security of the Jewish state.” Dine added that “the Democratic Party will not turn its back on Israel or the historic Camp David accords.”
While not mentioning the Palestinians, Gray stressed that “the issue will continue to come up in the future.”
NOT ALL JEWS AGAINST PLANK
However, Michael Lerner, editor of the progressive Tikkun magazine, issued a statement at the convention, saying “it is a terrible disservice to the American Jewish community to portray it as opposed to the principle of Palestinian self-determination.”
He said many Jews support Palestinian self-determination “as long as it is exercised in ways consistent with Israel’s security.”
After meeting with Jackson, Dukakis said the black candidate “will be playing a critically important role” in the campaign.
Jackson said his name will be placed in nomination for the presidency Wednesday night, and that he still hoped for a “Chicago miracle” that would give him the Democratic nomination.
Dukakis, who has more than enough delegates to ensure his nomination, said it will be an “Athenian miracle.”
At the same time, Jackson indicated he will not make a separate challenge for the vice presidential nomination, nor would he seek any position in a Dukakis administration.
“I seek no job, no salary, no title,” he said.
He added that he feels he would be less effective inside the government than outside.