The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the nation’s foremost pro-Israel lobby, pursued a quiet campaign to weaken pro-Israel language in the Republican Party’s 2012 platform, according to video obtained by the Washington Free Beacon and sources who attended the 2012 platform committee deliberations.
The sources described AIPAC’s bid to weaken the GOP’s language on Israel as an attempt to bring it more in line with the Democratic Party’s platform, in order to reinforce the perception long promoted by AIPAC that both parties are equally pro-Israel.
The lobby’s ultimately successful effort to weaken the 2012 pro-Israel language left some Republicans angered, according to sources who told the Free Beacon that the fight over the platform’s Israel language is likely to revive next week in Cleveland, when AIPAC will again face Republicans who advocate language that is more pro-Israel than that of the Democratic Party. AIPAC denies working to water down pro-Israel language in the 2012 GOP platform.
AIPAC-backed changes to the 2012 platform included the removal of support for an "undivided" Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as well as the removal of language calling for the relocation of the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
The 2008 Republican platform stated: "We support Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel and moving the American embassy to that undivided capital of Israel."
That language was not included in the 2012 version, which states: "[W]e envision two democratic states—Israel with Jerusalem as its capital and Palestine—living in peace and security."
During the 2012 discussions, the removal of the 2008 language was carried out at the behest of members of the platform committee who were allied with AIPAC, according to video of the session obtained by the Free Beacon.
The video shows amended language being proposed on behalf of Sue Lynch, a past president of the National Federation of Republican Women, a staunch pro-Israel advocate, and a close ally of AIPAC who has spoken at AIPAC’s annual Policy Conference. Free Beacon sources involved in the platform fight said that the language changes proposed by Lynch were encouraged by AIPAC.
When reached for comment, Lynch told the Free Beacon that during the 2012 platform meetings she "worked with AIPAC to insure strong language supporting" Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. When asked about the video footage showing an amendment bearing her name removing the "undivided" language and the endorsement of moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, she said, "that doesn’t seem correct" and added that "my memory recalls supporting Jerusalem as the capital."
Yet when delegates who opposed the AIPAC-supported changes presented alternative language that reaffirmed the GOP’s 2008 position, Lynch and others succeeded in defeating it according to subsequent video footage obtained by the Free Beacon.
The alternate language stated, "We desire Israel’s continued existence as a Jewish state with Jerusalem as its undivided and eternal capital, and call for the American embassy to be moved there in fulfillment of U.S. law," according to a copy obtained by the Free Beacon.
Lynch told the Free Beacon that "I did not support their efforts" to revive the 2008 language.
The initial platform-drafting meeting ended without resolution and the dispute was taken up at a meeting the next day.
In the hours between the two meetings, AIPAC allies are said to have privately persuaded delegates to oppose the alternative resolution.
A live broadcast of the platform committee’s final meeting hints at the internal discord that had erupted behind-the-scenes over the Israel language.
Randy Page, a delegate from South Carolina, led the failed effort to replace the AIPAC-approved platform with the alternate language supported by a significant number of Republican leaders.
"With all due respect, I believe that our present plank on Israel is way off base," Page said during a live CSPAN broadcast of the platform committee’s meeting.
"Our present Israel platform is a nearly identical copy of the Democrat’s Israel platform," Page said. "Check it out for yourself if you don’t believe me. Now let me ask: How many of you here today agree with President Obama’s policy of pressuring Israel? Because our platform sure seems to. That is not what’s in the heart of everyday Republicans who stand with Israel."
The platform committee again ended its session without resolving the Israel issue.
Top Republican leaders aligned with AIPAC completed the final language behind closed doors, sources said. Excluded from that meeting were delegates who had backed the alternative pro-Israel language.
When the final platform was unveiled at the 2012 convention, all of AIPAC’s recommended changes were included, sources claimed. References to an "undivided" Jerusalem and the relocation of the U.S. embassy were omitted.
AIPAC denies that it worked to strip language advocating an undivided Jerusalem and moving the U.S. embassy there.
The charges are "not true," an AIPAC spokesman told the Free Beacon. "AIPAC’s position has consistently been that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, should remain undivided, and we have supported moving the U.S. embassy there—and that remains our position."
"AIPAC actually worked to strengthen the 2012 Republican platform on Jerusalem," the spokesman said. "When it was noticed that Jerusalem was omitted from the original draft, we urged that language be included reflecting Jerusalem as Israel’s capital."
A source close to AIPAC told the Free Beacon that the only discussion AIPAC was involved in surrounded the issue of a two-state solution, which AIPAC supports.
The source further maintained that the original GOP platform proposal did not include any language mentioning an undivided Jerusalem. AIPAC staffers noticed this omission and recommended that such language be included, according to the source, who added that there was never any effort from AIPAC to weaken the platform language, but instead strengthen it.
While language on Jerusalem was ultimately added to the platform, the term "undivided" was rejected.
One source involved in drafting the 2012 platforms told the Free Beacon that AIPAC sought to ensure that the Republican and Democratic platforms used similar language with regards to Israel—despite objections from leaders in both parties.
GOP delegate Alan Clemmons, a South Carolina state representative, maintained AIPAC was behind efforts to suppress the alternate language and drag the GOP closer in line with the Democratic Party.
"The Obama years have proven a disastrous misery for anyone who cares about Israel," Clemmons said. "AIPAC’s only responding tactic has been to pull the Republicans leftward in order to manufacture the appearance of bipartisanship. This has significantly lowered the bar in the process of making policy, so much so that we may now have to live with a nuclear Iran for example."
Another source involved in the fight to strengthen the platform's language told the Free Beacon that AIPAC is working to undermine its own agenda. The lobby played a key role in pushing 1995 legislation requiring the U.S. embassy in Israel be moved to Jerusalem.
"It’s strange that AIPAC, which led on this issue in 1995 with the Jerusalem Embassy Act that requires the U.S. government to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move our embassy there, has now gutted support for the same policy in both parties’ platforms," the source said. "Major leaders in the Democratic Party today like Harry Reid, Joe Biden, John Kerry, Patty Murray, Diane Feinstein, Charles Rangel, Charles Schumer, and Dick Durbin, were all co-sponsors of the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act."
"So not only has AIPAC walked the Democrats back from an undivided Jerusalem, they’ve succeeded in steering the Republican party away from an undivided Jerusalem as well. And they did it by tricking people," the source said.
The 2012 controversy is viewed by some members of the platform drafting committee as a prelude to a similar dispute that will play out in the 2016 drafting meetings. Clemmons says he will lead the charge to change the 2016 platform.
"Public polling has consistently proved that the GOP base does not support many of the positions being promoted by AIPAC," he said. "The new language I will propose in Cleveland will accurately reflect the views of the base, and put support for Israel back into the hands of those everyday Americans whose support for Israel is the most honest and sincere."
"Having been at the 2012 GOP Convention to personally witness AIPAC’s staff and operatives shamelessly kill the party’s support for an undivided Jerusalem, I can say that it was easily the most tragic and dishonest political episode I have ever witnessed," Clemmons said.