Barring unexpected surprises, it appears increasingly unlikely you’ll see any political infighting by the time the Democratic National Convention gets underway on July 25.
For that you can thank, among others, Greg Rosenbaum, one of four vice chairs of the DNC Platform Committee. He spent hours helping to resolve disputes and developing lan-guage acceptable to all concerned — Bernie Sanders supporters as well as those of Hillary Clinton.
Chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council in Washington, the 63-year-old Rosenbaum downplays his role, saying it took concerted work by a number of people to create a platform that has some teeth, particularly when it comes to the subject of Israel.
If nothing else, that should silence those in the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) who felt the DNC was becoming less rather than more pro-Israel, Rosenbaum said.
“I’ve had three debates with the RJC making the claim the Democratic Party is slowly abandoning support for Israel,” said Rosenbaum, who will be on the podium either July 25 or 26 to present the platform. “The last time we debated they said, ‘Just wait and see what the Democratic platform looks like.’
“I had just been named vice chair of the committee and said, ‘I can assure you the platform will be strongly pro-Israel.’ I think it showed the importance of someone who was well-versed in issues that matter to Jewish Americans.”
In contrast, Rosenbaum said the RNC platform will likely contain language that runs counter to what has been long-established American government policy.
“From what we understand, the RNC platform uses language about Israel and the Palestinians that moves away from the two-state supported solution and towards a one-state solution,” said Rosen-baum. “At NJDC, when we first heard that, we made a statement that we were surprised they were moving away from a policy in the U.S. that has been in effect for president after president, Republican and Democrat. And it’s the stated position of the Israeli government that a two-state solution is the only solution to the Israel-Palestine situation in the Middle East.
“The [Anti-Defamation League] came out and questioned if it was the right thing to do to move away from the two-state solution,” he added. “If the delegates in Cleveland do pass a platform, which removes past endorsement of the two-state solution, then I’m going to take off my DNC vice chair hat and put on my NJDC hat and talk to American-Jewish voters about the stark contrast between the way the parties see support for Israel and the strength of the U.S.-Israel relationship.”
To be sure, there are more than a few in the Jewish community who see the GOP as the more pro-Israel of the two parties, pointing to the removal of the two-state langauge as evidence. AIPAC has lauded both parties’ platforms.
Jeff Ballabon, founder of the Iron Dome Alliance, a super PAC seeking to highlight what it calls the Republicans’ more supportive stance as Israel, told JTA the differences between the parties were clear.
“While the Democrats are arguing to what extent Israel should be called out for occupation, Republicans are denying that Israel is an occupier,” he said.
The other major Israel-related issue on the Democratic platform is the Iran nuclear deal and mounting concerns of an imminent threat to Israel should the Iranians violate its terms. While there were some disagreements on the platform committee, eventually things got hammered out to most everyone’s satisfaction.
“There’s a provision supp-orting the Iran deal and making sure it works,” explained Rosenbaum, one of 31 non-elected members to the platform committee, which includes 156 members elected by their respective states. “But there’s also language that says the U.S. retains the option to respond militarily if Iran violates the agreement. So, from that standpoint, it’s both a pro-Iran deal and pro-Israel.”
After putting together an initial draft Fourth of July weekend in St. Louis, the platform committee met in Orlando, Fla., on July 8 and 9, where both pro-Sanders and pro-Clinton forces argued their points.
Chaired by Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy and former Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin, they discussed each plank at length. The July 8 session convened at 3 p.m. and didn’t conclude until nearly 2 a.m. The next day went from 10 a.m. until 1:30 a.m.
But part of that time was spent attending a memorial service for those killed and wounded during the recent Pulse nightclub tragedy.
“It was held at the Orlando Museum of Art,” Rosenbaum said. “There was a quilt of the 49 victims and a candle-lighting ceremony. There were people speaking from the community. Representatives of the Orlando Hispanic community, LGBT, along with [Fla. Rep. and DNC Chairwoman] Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Rosenbaum said that being joined on the committee by his NJCDC predecessor as chairman, Marc Stanley, gave Jewish concerns added support and credibility.
“In terms of being a Jewish officer, I considered it quite an honor,” said Rosenbaum. “It shows the importance of Jewish Democrats in the formation of the platform.
“Marc Stanley and I represent the last five to six years of the chairs of the NJDC. With the RJC making its claims and all the debate going on about whether the president feels strongly about Israel, I thought the Democrats made a clear commitment to Jewish Democrats and to Jews in America.”
But Rosenbaum is the first to pass the credit to others.
“The platform committee was run well by Malloy and Franklin,” he praised. “The debate wasn’t too fevered, and all of it was respectful.
“Clinton and Sanders supporters worked out amendments where both sides could support language on climate, health care, minimum wage. Sanders got a lot of what he wanted but, in the end, I think the platform’s language does not run counter to Hillary Clinton’s beliefs.”
Having the platform in place comes as a huge relief for Rosenbaum.
“When I was named vice chair, I told people I’d work my hardest to make sure we didn’t have any platform floor fights,” Rosenbaum said. “The last time the Democrats had fights on the floor was 1980 [when Jimmy Carter was defeated by Ronald Reagan].
“I will be on the podium Monday or Tuesday smiling broadly as the platform is being read.”
Jon Marks is senior staff writer at the Jewish Exponent, a Philadelphia-area newspaper.