Bookmark and Share
Printer Friendly
August 1, 2008

Statement by Ira N. Forman at the Platform Hearing of the Democratic National Committee

Listed in: Israel, Other Foreign Policy, Reproductive Rights, Separation of Church and State, NJDC News, Press Releases, Speeches

This afternoon Ira Forman testified about the Middle East before the DNC National Platform Hearing in Cleveland.


Here are some highlights:

"Senator Obama has spoken eloquently about the growing danger of the Iranian nuclear program.  He has also said, '[t]here is no greater threat to the peace and stability of the Middle East than Iran.'  He has said, 'I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon... everything.'" 


"The United States must use both carrots and sticks - negotiations and economic pressure - to let the Iranians know that their current nuclear program is unacceptable."

"On the Bush administration's watch, we've seen a terrorist organization rise to power in Gaza.   The Democratic Party should join the international community and Senator Obama in endorsing language that makes clear that we should isolate Hamas until it renounces terrorism, recognizes Israel's right to exist, and abides by past agreements between Israel and the Palestinians."

"The American Jewish community, like the vast majority of all Americans, recognizes that the last seven and a half years of this Republican administration has been a disaster for the United States. We urge this committee to rely upon the Democratic Party's 2004 platform and the positions of Senator Obama to continue to support the U.S.-Israel relationship and to highlight all the vast policy differences that separate the Democratic Party and the intellectually bankrupt Republican Party."

Here is the entire statement:

Good afternoon. My name is Ira Forman, and I am the Executive Director of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC).
For 18 years, the NJDC has been the national voice of Jewish Democrats. NJDC has two missions. First, we are tasked with the mission of representing the values and concerns of the American Jewish community to the Democratic Party. Second, we educate the Jewish community about the Democratic Party platform and the positions of the party's candidates on issues of concern to Jewish voters.
While today we will be speaking about the Democratic Party platform's continued support for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, NJDC also advocates on behalf of a number of domestic policy issues, such as the separation of church and state and women's reproductive rights.

The United States and the Democratic Party have long been advocates for and supporters of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.  For decades, Democratic platforms have celebrated this important relationship - a relationship that is based on both shared values and shared interests.

Likewise, Senator Barack Obama has spoken at length about the special nature and importance of America's ties with Israel. I want to emphasize, because Republicans would have us believe otherwise, that Senator Obama has built an impeccable legislative record of support for the U.S.-Israel relationship. Moreover, he has reiterated in great detail the importance of this relationship during this campaign and his recent trip to the Middle East. 

The Democratic Party, Senator Obama, and all of our Democratic Congressional leadership have steadfastly supported our alliance with Israel and that democracy's ability to defend itself.

The 2008 Democratic Party platform should do so as well.

Four years ago, the Democratic platform reaffirmed the Democratic Party's fundamental commitment - and I quote - "to the security of our ally Israel and the creation of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace between Israel and her neighbors."  It spoke of the "special relationship with Israel [that] is based on the unshakable foundation of shared values and a mutual commitment to democracy..." The platform reasserted the party's support for Israel's "qualitative edge for its national security and its right to self-defense," and a Jerusalem that is "the capital of Israel and should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths." 

The 2004 platform called for the creation of a Palestinian state that would resolve the issue of Palestinian refugees, and it reasserted U.S. policy that final outcomes cannot be imposed upon the parties but must be mutually agreed upon by Israelis and Palestinians.  It also reasserted that it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status talks would be a "full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949."

The Middle East planks of previous platforms have been carefully crafted and have served us well as a party and a country.  We urge the Platform Committee to stick closely to the 2004 platform language.

There are, of course, a few issues that have arisen over the past four years that should be expanded upon and included in the platform.
One is the threat of a nuclear Iran.  Four years ago, the platform criticized the administration for failing to "take effective steps to stop the North Korean and Iranian nuclear programs" and stated that the U.S. must lead an international effort to shut down Iran's nuclear program.  This was true then and it is even more true now.

Senator Obama has spoken eloquently about the growing danger of the Iranian nuclear program.  He has also said, "[t]here is no greater threat to the peace and stability of the Middle East than Iran."  He has said, "I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon... everything."  That's why he is the author of S. 1430, the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act.

That's why the Democratic Party should update and include language that supports our use of tough, principled diplomacy.  The United States must use both carrots and sticks - negotiations and economic pressure - to let the Iranians know that their current nuclear program is unacceptable.  That's why the Democratic Party should state clearly that Iran must comply with UN Security Council resolutions and end its efforts to acquire a nuclear weapons capability.

Also on the Bush administration's watch, we've seen a terrorist organization rise to power in Gaza.   The Democratic Party should join the international community and Senator Obama in endorsing language that makes clear that we should isolate Hamas until it renounces terrorism, recognizes Israel's right to exist, and abides by past agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.

Finally, we also would urge this committee to update the platform to build upon the already existing commitment to support Israel's right and ability to defend itself by endorsing the implementation of the U.S.-Israel Memorandum of Understanding regarding military assistance.  Senator Obama has endorsed this agreement, Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have endorsed this agreement, and the Democratic Party should endorse this agreement.

The American Jewish community, like the vast majority of all Americans, recognizes that the last seven and a half years of this Republican administration has been a disaster for the United States. We urge this committee to rely upon the Democratic Party's 2004 platform and the positions of Senator Obama to continue to support the U.S.-Israel relationship and to highlight all the vast policy differences that separate the Democratic Party and the intellectually bankrupt Republican Party.

Thank you again for your time and consideration.