Hillary Clinton will have a difficult time beating Trump without Bernie Sanders (if she is the nominee), but the Feel the Bern movement has some tough demands first — like taking a more “even-handed” approach towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The DNC is making material concessions to the Vermont senator, but that almost certainly won’t be enough.
Like the Nevada state convention, without enough compromise and transparency, the Democratic convention in Philadelphia could become roiled in conflict, a fight that could hand the White House to Donald Trump.
In the Democratic debate in Brooklyn before the New York primary, Bernie Sanders said, “I read Secretary Clinton’s speech before AIPAC. I heard virtually no discussion at all about the needs of the Palestinian people.”
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is a lobbying group supporting pro-Israel policies. Presenting before the group’s conference is a common practice in American presidential politics, mostly to reaffirm America’s support. Bernie Sanders was the only major candidate not to attend this election cycle and even suggested in the Brooklyn debate that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is not always correct.
“Of course Israel has a right to defend itself, but long-term, there will never be peace in that region unless the United States plays an even-handed role, trying to bring people together and recognizing the serious problems that exist among the Palestinian people… There comes a time when, if we pursue justice and peace, we are going to have to say that Netanyahu is not right all of the time.”
That “even-handed” approach towards Israel might make it onto the DNC platform, but not if the frontrunner Hillary Clinton can help it.
According to the Washington Post, Bernie Sanders, the first credible Jewish candidate for president, says he is 100 percent pro-Israel, but also argued that the country’s response to Hamas rockets in the 2014 Gaza conflict was “disproportionate.” Clinton has shied away from words like “even-handed” and “disproportionate.”
That difference might seem minor, but according to a longtime Clinton supporter speaking to the Post, it could be a deal-breaker.
“On one hand there is not an enormous amount of difference between them. They are both pro-Israel, they are both pro-peace. But in the context of the campaign terms like ‘even-handed’ can come to mean that the United States is signaling a shift.”
That perceived shift would be unacceptable for the Clinton campaign.
Anat Berko, a member of the Israeli Knesset from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party, called Bernie Sanders’ view “dangerous.”
“Please ask in my name Mr. Sanders why he’s not speaking about the denial by Iran of the Holocaust? The calling of Iran for the destruction of the state of Israel? Stoning in the streets of women? Of gays?”
Still, if the DNC tries to shut out Bernie Sanders’ idea of a slightly more nuanced Israel policy, it could be costly. The party is already planning to give more seats on the convention platform committee to Sanders’ supporters, but the Feel the Bern movement is aiming for significant change on the final platform document. The candidate is planning an “aggressive effort” to that end.
That will put Hillary Clinton in a tight spot.
According to Real Clear Politics, Donald Trump is leading Clinton nationally in the last two polls (conducted by Rasmussen and Fox News). The numbers are the latest indication that the GOP is coming together behind Trump’s candidacy; whether Clinton gets a similar boost will likely depend on the convention and a unifying platform.
On the other hand, the political consequences of Bernie Sanders’ “even-handed” policy are difficult to measure. A Gallup poll found that 60 percent of Democrats viewed Israel favorably, and 48 percent sympathized more with Israel than with the Palestinians. But it also showed Israel’s popularity is in a state of decline among progressives.
Other Bernie Sanders’ demands for the party platform include raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]