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Plank on Palestinians Excluded from Democratic Party Platrform

June 28, 1988
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Democratic Party platform, which some feared might contain support for “Palestinian self-determination” or even a Palestinian state, emerged in its pre-convention form from Denver over the weekend without any mention of the Palestinians.

The 3,500-word campaign document, adopted Saturday night by the party platform committee, does reaffirm support for the “special relationship with Israel” and calls for the Arab-Israeli conflict to be solved through negotiations based on the Camp David Accords.

Supporters of Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, with a 3-1 majority on the committee, easily defeated any pro-Palestinian measures, as well as other positions advocated by the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

The platform does not call for the United States to move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as the Democratic platforms did in 1980 and 1984. But Dukakis is on record in support of the move, based on the concept that the embassy should be wherever Israel has its capital.

Jackson, who has urged his supporters to maintain party unity, said in a television interview Monday that he had not yet decided whether to seek a floor fight at the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta next month on some of the issues he pressed during his unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

If he does, most observers believe it will be on such issues as his proposals for higher taxes or defenses cuts, rather than on the Middle East.


But James Zogby, director of the Arab American Institute and a Jackson delegate from the District of Columbia, is expected to raise the issue at the convention even if just to publicize the Palestinian cause.

Zogby, a leading supporter of Jackson both in 1984 and this year, led the effort before the platform committee for a plank in support of the Palestinians.

His organization had originally proposed a resolution that the United States adopt a policy which “supports the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and independent statehood and which supports Israel’s existence and security within internationally recognized borders.”

The resolution also called for an international peace conference to negotiate all outstanding issues in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Hyman Bookbinder, special Washington representative of the American Jewish Committee, said that Zogby tried several different resolutions, first calling for a Palestinian state, then self-determination and finally for support of the “legitimate rights of Palestinians.”

Bookbinder, who ends his long tenure with AJCommittee this week to join the Dukakis campaign, said that Dukakis’ two representatives on the platform committee, former Rep. Michael Barnes of Maryland and Georgetown University Professor Madeleine Albright, were “tough” on the issue. The Palestinian amendments were rejected in a voice vote after it became clear to supporters that the Dukakis people would not give in.

“Nobody can in any way be confused” now about how Dukakis stands on the issue, Bookbinder said.

Supporters of Israel had voiced concern about inclusion of a pro-Palestinian plank in the platform because Jackson supporters have pressed for such resolutions at Democratic state conventions.

Resolutions endorsing a Palestinian state were adopted by state conventions in Illinois, Vermont, Washington, Maine and Oregon, while conventions in Texas and Minnessota endorsed self-determination for the Palestinians.

In the parlance of Middle East diplomacy, they are virtually the same thing, which is why the Reagan administration speaks only of the legitimate rights of Palestinians.


While action by the state conventions are not binding on the Democratic National Convention, both B’nai B’rith International and the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith were concerned enough by the development to send letters last week to Michigan Gov. James Blanchard, chairman of the platform committee, urging the committee to reject any call for a Palestinian state.

David Brody, ADL’s Washington representative, sought to de-emphasize the importance of the state resolutions. He said they do not reflect the opinion of most Democrats and were adopted, for the most part, in the waning hours of the conventions, when most delegates were caught off guard.

This happened in Illinois, where busloads of people were brought in by the Jackson organization, many of them not delegates, to push through the resolution at the last minute.

In some states, such as California, where the issue was proposed in advance, the resolutions were defeated.

Some observers note, however, that Arab-Americans are now taking a leaf from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. AIPAC has long advocated reaching out to officials on the state level, on the grounds that some may eventually be elected to Congress.

The Democratic platform adopted in Denver is about one-tenth the size of previous platforms. It is a deliberate attempt to stress broad themes rather than specific issues that would make it an easy target for the Republicans.

The Middle East plank is a short paragraph that also supports the Central America peace plan proposed by Costa Rica President Oscar Arias. It reads:

“Deeply disturbed that the current administration has abandoned the peace process in the Middle East and consistently undermined it in Central America, we believe that this country, maintaining that special relationship with Israel founded on mutually shared values and strategic interest, should provide new leadership to deliver the promise of peace and security through negotiations that have been held out to Israel and its neighbors by the Camp David Accords and to Central America by the Arias peace plan.”

Some political savants consider the platform meaningless, since it is has not in the past bound either Democratic or Republican presidential candidates. They usually stake out their own positions in the campaign.

In 1980, for example, President Carter said he would not agree to the platform’s call for the relocation of the embassy. Former Vice President Walter Mondale in 1984 said he supported it.

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