Do the platforms put forward every four years by our major political parties
matter? In general, the answer would have to be no.
The platforms are documents that bind neither presidential candidate, and
often have little impact on the policies that the winner in November will pursue.
The fact that for decades both Republicans and Democrats passed platform
planks calling for moving the U.S. Embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,
only to have presidents of both parties reject this advice, is testimony to how
meaningless this exercise can be.
But while we are right to be skeptical about any promise made in the summer
of a presidential election year, this doesn't mean that supporters of Israel
should sit out the process.
Even though we can't be sure that anything the Democrats or the GOP promise
in their platforms will come to pass, the value of the symbolism involved is
not to be minimized. If we are to continue the tradition of bipartisan support
for Israel, then both parties must be put on record saying so.
That's why we are encouraged by the decision of the Democrats to specifically
support Israel's right to hold on to parts of the West Bank in any possible
peace settlement. By echoing President Bush's stand on this question, the
Democrats are doing more than ratcheting up the bidding in the struggle for Jewish
votes. Call it pandering if you like, but they are also sending a signal that
those who hope to detach the United States from Israel in the coming years are
bound to lose.
In this light, friends of Israel should hope the Republicans, who are bent on
substantially increasing the small share of the Jewish vote that they won
four years ago, will see the Democrats and raise them by explicitly endorsing
Israel's right to build a security fence a point that the Democrats chose to
omit from their plank.
While some will dismiss this competition as mere electioneering, let's
remember that such pro-Israel statements are not being made in a vacuum. Hatred for
Israel generated by anti-Semitism is on the rise around the world, a
phenomenon illustrated by the preposterous ruling of the International Court of Justice
in the Hague that Israel must tear down its West Bank security barrier.
Even more ominous are the signs that anti-Israel sentiment is finding a home
on the margins of American politics. The Green Party, the far-left
environmentalist party that, under the leadership of maverick candidate Ralph Nader, had
an enormous impact on the 2000 race, recently issued its own platform. But, in
addition to pushing for cleaner air and water, the Greens have also a foreign
policy agenda these days: the eradication of Israel.
Though media coverage of the recent Green convention in Milwaukee
concentrated on the party's refusal to back Nader this time, as the Wisconsin Jewish
Chronicle reported earlier this month, the Greens also passed a platform
endorsing, among other things, the so-called Palestinian "right of return," an end to
U.S. support for the Jewish state, and the replacement of the State of Israel
with a binational Jewish/Arab state.
It would be easy to laugh this off as the ravings of a bunch of tree-huggers,
but that would be to miss the point.
Although they are a tiny minority, the Greens are given respectful treatment
in the national press that is not accorded to other fringe groups. Few causes
are considered more chic than environmentalism and even though the Greens are
Luddites with no chance of winning a national election, their support has
steadily grown over the years. Unlike other extremists, the Greens can count on
both the media and their base in academia to soften any criticism of their
The fact that they have lined up behind the Jew-haters points to the growing
legitimacy accorded such despicable ideas on not only the far left but in
academia as well. That they did so without so much as a peep of protest from the
mainstream press also speaks volumes about the way such views are increasingly
All this shows that anyone who scoffs at the Democrats or Republicans lining
up for Israel should think again. At a time when it is more vital than ever
that American Jews speak up for Israel, the Greens have shown that the radical
anti-Zionism so fashionable in Europe today has won a toehold on our own