Clinton, Sanders Democratic platform drafters find common ground on Israel, Palestinians

Former Congressman Howard Berman, left, and Cornel West, at right, listening to testimony at a Democratic Party platform drafting committee hearing in Washington, D.C., June 9 2016. (Ron Kampeas)

Former Rep. Howard Berman, left, and Cornel West, right, listening to testimony at a Democratic Party platform drafting committee hearing in Washington, D.C., June 9, 2016. (Ron Kampeas)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Two delegates to the Democratic Party’s platform drafting committee — one appointed by Hillary Clinton and the other by Bernie Sanders — said the platform must reflect the hardships faced both by Israelis and Palestinians.

“Israelis today live in fear of acts of terror that can turn peaceful marketplaces and neighborhoods into scenes of violence and horror,” said the statement released Thursday by Reps. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., appointed by Sanders and Clinton, respectively. “Palestinians struggle under an unjust occupation that deprives them of the rights, opportunities and independence that they deserve. That is the reality of a conflict that has gone on for far too long and at a terrible cost.”

The statement was released by J Street, the liberal Middle East policy group that favors including language sympathetic to Palestinians and Israelis in the platform. The political action committee affiliated with J Street has endorsed both Ellison and Gutierrez for reelection.

“As we and our colleagues work over the next few weeks to frame our party’s platform, we’re confident that we can seize this moment and confirm the consensus vision of peace, security and human dignity shared by our party and its supporters,” said the statement.

Ellison and two other appointees by Sanders, the Independent senator from Vermont who had run an insurgent campaign from the left until Clinton secured the nomination earlier this month, have pressed hard for a platform that reflects Palestinian as well as Israeli aspirations. Previous platforms focus almost exclusively on U.S. support for Israel and back Palestinian statehood primarily as a means of keeping Israel safe.

Until Gutierrez joined Ellison in the statement, appointees to the committee named by Clinton, the former secretary of state, and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., the Democratic National Committee chairwoman, have mostly resisted Israel-related changes to the platform.

“Hillary Clinton’s steadfast support for Israel, and the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship, are well known,” Jake Sullivan, the Clinton campaign’s senior foreign policy adviser, told JTA in an emailed statement. “As we have said previously, she remains confident that the party platform will reflect her views.”

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