WASHINGTON (AP) — Last year, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney attacked the Democratic convention platform for its "shameful" decision to omit a reference to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. But in a sign of how U.S. politics have changed in 40 years, President Richard Nixon complained in 1972 of the Democrats' "dishonest" platform language declaring the city Israel's capital.
Nixon's national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, agreed with his condemnation during a previously unreported taped conversation from June 29, 1972. "To make Jerusalem the capital of Israel is not the platform of a major American national party," Henry Kissinger told Nixon. "That is what I find so revolting here." The tape is one of a collection housed at the University of Virginia's Miller Center.
On Wednesday, Barack Obama arrived in Israel for his first visit there as president — about six months after telling Democratic Party officials to reinstate language from previous convention platforms stating Jerusalem is the Israeli capital.
"It is wonderful to be back in Jerusalem, the eternal city," Obama said at an appearance with Israeli President Shimon Peres at Peres' home in Jerusalem Wednesday, following a meeting between the two men.
But on Tuesday in Washington, Obama's administration argued in a federal appellate court that a law allowing Americans born in Jerusalem to have their place of birth listed on their U.S. passports as Israel infringed on the president's foreign policy powers. The United States, during administrations of both political parties, has refused to recognize any nation's sovereignty over Jerusalem since Israel's creation in 1948.
The Republicans added language to their platform in 1996 declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel, and the party has included similar language ever since. Democrats have kept it in their platform for every election since 1972 except for 1988, according to a review of presidential platforms compiled by the American Presidency Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
For decades, Republican and Democratic administrations alike have said it is up to the Israelis and Palestinians to settle Jerusalem's final status — essentially a neutral position amid rivaling territorial claims. Both sides consider the city their capital, and its status has long been among the thorniest issues in Mideast peace talks.
The 1972 chat begins with Kissinger asking Nixon if he'd read the Democrats' foreign policy platform.
"I didn't want to lose my breakfast, so I didn't bother," Nixon replied.
After relating the Democrats' policies on the Vietnam War, Kissinger said, "Then all-out on Israel, I mean, in a really nauseating way ... in a degree of detail, you know, Jerusalem should be the capital, direct negotiations between the parties. Nauseating detail."
"I mean, this is a disgrace. This is written by a bunch of cynical amateurs," added Kissinger, who is Jewish.
Nixon responded: "To be all-out on Israel — isn't that something, though? That is, that is so dishonest."
The Republican president suggested that Democratic military cuts would leave Israel vulnerable to military aggression. Israel had fought a war against its Arab neighbors five years earlier.
"You can be for Jerusalem being the capital, and if you're got a $35 billion defense cut, you ain't going to be able to — there isn't going to be anything to be capital of," said Nixon, who was considered a friend of Israel despite making many anti-Semitic comments in private.
"Well it shows you what we're — we contend with. And it also shows the necessity for us to be in good shape. Because these people are so revolting that they have to be smashed," Nixon said.
"They must be smashed," Kissinger added.
Nixon went on: "But I don't, I don't mean just beat them. It's good to beat them. But I mean smashed. They must be, they must be, disgraced, driven right out of public life."
The conversation occurred two years before the Watergate scandal would drive Nixon from office in disgrace.
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