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Paul Ryan: Democratic Party platform changes on Israel 'tragic'

September 05, 2012|By Maeve Reston
  • Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan speaks during a campaign event at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan speaks during a campaign… (Mary Altaffer / Associated…)

WOODSTOCK, Vt. — Republican vice president nominee Paul Ryan sharply criticized Democrats for removing a passage from their 2012 platform stating that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel—language that was part of the party document in 2008.

“This is tragic,” Ryan said during a Wednesday morning appearance on "Fox & Friends." "Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Mitt Romney and I are very clear on this…. What is so tragic about this is that this is one of the few issues where the Republican Party and the Democratic Party agreed.”

 “Our two party platforms were emphatic about Jerusalem being the capital of Israel, the issues surrounding the right of return, and Hamas," he said. 

The status of Jerusalem, which is the legal capital of Israel, is a central point of dispute in Israeli-Palestinian relations. The Palestinians hope to make Jerusalem the capital of an independent state. The two sides have agreed to resolve the issue in negotiations.

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Because of the controversy, the U.S. government has kept its embassy in Tel Aviv.

Although Congress passed a law in 1995 ordering the State Department to move the embassy to Jerusalem, Presidents Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama have not complied, arguing that Congress had infringed on the executive branch’s ability to conduct foreign affairs.

In 2008, the Democratic Party platform stated that “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel. The parties have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations. It should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths.”

Ryan and Romney have argued that removing that language has undermined U.S. support for Israel, and accused Obama of trying to create distance between the U.S. and Israel. The Obama campaign quickly denied that charge. 

When asked about this year’s platform changes, Democratic officials said the status of Jerusalem should be resolved during final status negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.

“We will continue to work with the parties to resolve this issue as part of a two-state solution that secures the future of Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland of the Jewish people,” said Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Melanie Roussell.

During a speech in Israel at the end of July, Romney won huge cheers from the crowd when he said that it was “a deeply moving experience to be in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.”

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Obama won 78% percent of Jewish vote in 2008, according to exit polling, and his reelection campaign is working to keep those voters in the Democratic column. 

Romney has argued that he would be a more forceful advocate for Israel, particularly with the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear development program.

Earlier this summer, the Republican Jewish Coalition announced a $6.5-million campaign in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida that would focus on "buyer's remorse" among Jewish voters who backed Obama.

In a statement Tuesday, Romney said that as president he would “restore our relationship with Israel and stand shoulder to shoulder with our close ally.”

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