Next week, at the Republican National Convention, delegates won't just be nominating a presidential candidate; they'll be voting on a 60-page policy platform prepared earlier this week in Tampa, Florida, by 112 Republican delegates. The platform, which won't be publicly released until Monday (Politico discovered a draft that was briefly posted online on Friday), has mainly attracted attention so far for its anti-abortion language.
But the committee also tackled pressing foreign-policy questions -- and the debates that ensued speak to the divisions that lurk behind the cohesive worldview the party will present to the nation next week. Sure, non-binding party platforms may have a limited impact on the positions presidential candidates take and the ways Americans vote, but they nevertheless highlight the issues at the center of a party's effort to define its international posture; in this case, the GOP's struggle to reconcile presumptive nominee Mitt Romney's embrace of American exceptionalism with Texas Rep. Ron Paul's considerably more modest vision of American power.
What are the most notable takeaways from this year's platform-drafting process, beyond one eagle-eyed delegate requesting that a reference to "Czechoslovakia," which ceased to exist in 1993, be changed to the "Czech Republic?" Here's a deeper look at what one committee member has called the "most conservative platform in modern history."
Far and away, the most controversial part of the GOP's foreign-policy platform was the section tentatively titled, "Our Unequivocal Support for Israel," which stated that Republicans "envision two democratic states -- Israel with Jerusalem as its capital and Palestine -- living in peace and security" -- language that is nearly identical to wording used in the party's 2008 platform. The passage provoked a raft of amendments arguing that, in endorsing the two-state solution, the Republicans were dictating the terms of a peace agreement to the Israeli government.
"The overwhelming majority of Republicans don't support the creation of another terror state like the ones that have since been created in southern Lebanon and Gaza," declared South Carolina delegate Randy Page. "We cannot continue to endorse [President Barack] Obama's policy of forcing Israel to negotiate in the face of suicidal risk." Page complained that the party's Israel plank was "a nearly identical copy of the Democrats' Israel platform" (the 2008 Democratic platform also supports a two-state solution).
In fact, it was President George W. Bush, who in 2002 became the first U.S. president to explicitly call for an independent Palestinian state and in 2007 hosted a conference that, as the Wall Street Journal put it, "enshrine[d] the two-state solution as the mutually agreed-upon desired outcome of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
But the Republican Party has grown more reluctant to spell out the parameters of Israeli-Palestinian peace ever since last year, when Obama backed a two-state solution roughly based on the pre-1967 borders. Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan have criticized that decision, though both have expressed support for a two-state solution as well.
A resolution at the RNC's winter meeting this year appeared to reject the two-state solution -- proclaiming "that peace can be afforded the region only through a united Israel governed under one law for all people" -- though party officials hinted at the time that the language would not find its way into the platform adopted at the presidential convention.
They were right. At the platform committee deliberations, Jim Talent, a Mitt Romney surrogate and former Missouri senator, ultimately fended off the flurry of amendments, arguing that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly endorsed the two-state solution as Israeli government policy.