U.S. Jewish Leaders Echo European Call to End Israeli Settlement Building

"For the Sake of Zion," an online petition in support of Israel but critical of its policies, is signed by dozens of prominent American rabbis, judges, writers, academics and philanthropists.

Following in the footsteps of the European initiative launched by JCall, a group of Jewish-American leaders on Friday launched an online petition urging an end to Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and calling for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israeli left-wing activists participate in a rally against West Bank Jewish settlements, in Jerusalem on May 15, 2010AP

Called "For the Sake of Zion," the petition is signed by dozens of prominent American rabbis, judges, writers, academics and philanthropists. (See the petition here.)

"Encouraged by the recent European 'Call For Reason,' signed by more than 5,200 Jewish citizens of European countries, we, American Jews passionately devoted to the safety and welfare of the State of Israel, now add our voices to those of our European kinsfolk," the group's petition reads.

"They recognize, as do we, that Israel faces existential threats, both from without and from within. We do not take these lightly, but we reject the view that they are Israel’s inevitable destiny."

The signatories, some of which have lived in Israel, go on to say that the Jewish people are entitled to live in a sovereign state.

"We believe without reservation that 'Israel is the national home of the Jewish people,' and we therefore feel both entitled and obligated to make our views known," the group said in its petition.

The American Jewish leaders go on to say that they categorically condemn terrorism, but at the same time, "we abhor the continuing occupation that has persisted for far too long; it cannot and should not be sustained.

"As our European counterparts correctly point out, '[T]he occupation and the continuing pursuit of settlements in the West Bank and in the Arab districts of Jerusalem . . . are morally and politically wrong and feed the unacceptable de-legitimation process that Israel currently faces abroad.' They go on to say, 'Israel will soon be faced with two equally disastrous choices: either to become a state in which Jews are a minority in their own country, or to establish a regime that would be a disgrace to Israel and lead to civil unrest.' We agree," write the American Jewish leaders.

The petition calls for both sides to advance toward a two-state solution, which they say requires concession and commitments from both sides.

The group endorses the Obama administration's "vigorous encouragement of the parties to make the concessions necessary for negotiations to advance. In that context, we call upon Israel immediately to cease construction of housing in the disputed territories."

The petition concludes by saying that Israeli citizens and their neighbors are ultimately those who will decide on their future and that is their right, but "Ours is to call attention to decisions the government of Israel takes which, in our view, endanger the State we hold so dear. We invite all those of similar view to sign this statement."

The European initiative, JCall was launched in early May by public figures and intellectuals, such as Bernard-Henri Levy, Alain Finkielkraut and Daniel Cohn-Bendit, in an effort to make a new Jewish voice heard "that is both committed to the state of Israel and critical of the current choices of its government."

JCall has collected more than 5,600 signatures online.