CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Facing unhappy pro-Israel groups amid a Republican-led outcry, Democrats gathered Wednesday at their presidential nominating convention made 11th-hour changes to the party platform to reinstate a reference to God and a declaration that "undivided" Jerusalem is Israel's capital.
There was widespread booing on the floor of the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte as Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa led delegates in three voice votes that sounded, at best, equally divided on whether to restore language from the party's 2008 document. Observers said the boos were directed at Villaraigosa's decision to skip a formal ballot and declare the platform amended.
"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," the amended document read.
The vote also returned this language to the platform: "We need a government that stands up for the hopes, values, and interests of working people, and gives everyone willing to work hard the chance to make the most of their God-given potential."
Republicans raised a hue and cry over the Democrats' decision to no longer include the words "God-given" after David Brody of CBN News reported its absence (while also noting that the platform included a section on the importance of faith).
President Barack Obama's position—which echoes that of President George W. Bush—is that the status of Jerusalem is among the so-called "final status" issues that must be resolved by Israel and the Palestinians. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state.
An American law declares that Jerusalem is Israel's capital and calls for the United States Embassy there to leave Tel Aviv, where it is now. But it includes a presidential waiver authority, and Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have all used that to forestall the change.
"Mitt Romney has consistently stated his belief that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel," said Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul. "Now is the time for President Obama to state in unequivocal terms whether or not he believes Jerusalem is Israel's capital."
White House spokesman Jay Carney, speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, said that "the position on Jerusalem held by this administration, this president, is exactly the same position that presidents and administrations have held since 1967—presidents of both parties, administrations of both parties."
"You certainly didn't hear leaders of the Republican Party during the George W. Bush administration saying that his position of his government that Jerusalem needed to be resolved in final status negotiations between the two parties—Israelis and Palestinians—was 'shameful,'" Carney said. "I didn't hear Mitt Romney say that. I certainly didn't hear Paul Ryan say that."