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Democrats Fumble Major Israel Issue, Put Jerusalem As Capital In Platform

President Obama Hands Republicans A Gift; Jewish, Palestinian Leaders Fume
Barack Obama (Photo credit: JIM WATSON/AFP/GettyImages)

Barack Obama (Photo credit: JIM WATSON/AFP/GettyImages)

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (CBSNewYork) — A big flip flop by the Democratic Party has replaced what was perceived as a big snub to Israel.

It was a stunning development. The party had dropped the assertion that Jerusalem was the capital of the Jewish state, but on Wednesday evening the Democrats had a change of heart.  The vote went down just before 6 p.m. and it was quite contentious on the floor.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the Convention chairman, needed to take three separate votes to get the motion passed and he was booed when he ruled it in. That’s because the crowd of delegates on the floor sounded more split 50-50, than having delivered the two-thirds majority needed, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported.

The Democrats caved after Obama campaign officials said the president personally intervened to change the two planks on God and Jerusalem, but it only came after there was strong opposition from church groups and many New Yorkers, CBS 2’s Kramer reported.

“I think it is a mistake and I’m not happy about it,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler said of the original language.

“I disagree with that platform,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand added.

“We try to avoid this type of conflict by providing ammunition to the other side to exploit,” Rep. Nydia Velazquez said.

President Barack Obama handed the Republicans a new avenue of attack on a silver platter when he supported a Democratic Party platform change that does not state that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. It was a dramatic change from what the president said when he was running for office the first time.

“Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided,” he said back in 2008.

The omission in a platform that does support strong security assurances for Israel left Democratic officials saying it was a mistake, but “I would very much have preferred that plank to be in there,” New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said.

“That said, I think President Obama’s record on Israel is strong. It is a record of commitment to Israel.”

Jewish leaders reacted swiftly.

“The principle that Jerusalem should remain united and is the capital of Israel has been enshrined for a long time,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

“It concerns me. It concerns every Jew,” said Chanina Sperlin, Executive VP of the Crown Heights Council. “It’s a big mistake leaving that out of the party platform.”

Many Palestinians were also annoyed. They want Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.

“The debate surrounding this, it’s not so much about the peace process and a peaceful solution in the Middle East, but it’s more about scoring points, whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, and that’s unfortunate,” said Muneer Awad from the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The omission gave Republicans an opening. Presidential nominee Mitt Romney called it “shameful,” because Jewish voters in battleground states like Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Nevada could be critical.

“It’s mystifying that the Democrats would do this at a time when they are trying to repair relations with the Jewish community,” Hofstra University professor Larry Levy said. “Jewish voters have been concerned over whether the Obama administration has been playing fair in the Middle East

The flip flop was explained away by campaign officials saying the change was done to “reflect the president’s personal point of view.”

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