CHARLOTTE, N.C. >> Needled by Mitt Romney and other Republicans, Democrats hurriedly rewrote their convention platform today to add a mention of God and declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel after President Barack Obama intervened to order the changes.
The embarrassing reversal was compounded by chaos and uncertainty on the convention floor, requiring three votes before a ruling that the amendments had been approved. Many in the audience booed the decision.
The episode exposed tensions on Israel within the party, put Democrats on the defensive and created a public relations spectacle as Obama arrived in the convention city to claim his party’s nomination for a second term.
The language in the party platform — a political document — does not affect actual U.S. policy toward Israel. The administration has long said that determining Jerusalem’s status is an issue that should be decided in peace talks by Israelis and Palestinians.
Obama intervened directly to get the language changed both on Jerusalem and to reinstate God in the platform, according to campaign officials who insisted on anonymity to describe behind-the-scenes party negotiations. They said Obama’s reaction to the omission of God from the platform was to wonder why it was removed in the first place.
The revisions came as Obama struggles to win support from white working-class voters, many of whom have strong religious beliefs, and as Republicans try to woo Jewish voters and contributors away from the Democratic Party. Republicans claimed the platform omissions suggested Obama was weak in his defense of Israel and out of touch with mainstream Americans.
GOP officials argued that not taking a position on Jerusalem’s status in the party platform raised questions about Obama’s support for the Mideast ally. Romney said omitting God “suggests a party that is increasingly out of touch with the mainstream of the American people.”
“I think this party is veering further and further away into an extreme wing that Americans don’t recognize,” Romney said.
Added to the platform was a declaration that 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.”
That language was included in the platform four years ago when Obama ran for his first term, but was left out when Democrats on Tuesday approved their 2012 platform, which referred only to the nation’s “unshakable commitment to Israel’s security.”
Some delegates were angered by the change.
“There was no discussion. We didn’t even see it coming. We were blindsided by it,” said Noor Ul-Hasan, a Muslim delegate from Salt Lake City, who questioned whether the convention had enough of a quorum to even amend the platform.
Also restored from the 2008 platform was language calling for a government that “gives everyone willing to work hard the chance to make the most of their God-given potential.”