Mobile homes at the West Bank settlement outpost Ramat Gilad.
Mobile homes at the West Bank outpost Ramat Gilad. Photo by Alon Ron
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Zion Ozeri
Rabbi Daniel Gordis Photo by Zion Ozeri

More than 40 American Jewish leaders and philanthropists have sent a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu expressing their concern about the recent Levy Committee report on the legality of settlements in the territories and urging him to make sure that the government does not adopt it.

“Securing Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state requires diplomatic and political leadership, not legal maneuverings,” the letter says. The report submitted last week by retired Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy - which found that Israel is not legally “occupying” the territories and that settlements are therefore legal - will “add fuel to those who seek to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist,” the letter states.

Do you think U.S. Jewish leaders are right to urge Netanyahu to reject the Levy report? Visit Haaretz.com on Facebook and share your views.

One of the more prominent and perhaps surprising signatures on the letter is that of Rabbi Daniel Gordis, President of the conservative-leaning Shalem Center in Jerusalem. Other prominent signatories include philanthropists and businessmen Charles Bronfman, Stanley Gold and Lester Crown, former AIPAC head Tom Dine, Hebrew Union College president David Ellenson, renowned Holocaust scholar Professor Deborah Lipstadt, former Jewish Agency Chairman Richard Pearlstone former Reform leader Eric Yoffie and New York UJA Federation Campaign co-chair, Marcia Riklis.

“We fear that if approved, this report will place the two-state solution and the prestige of Israel as a democratic member of the international community, in peril,” the signatories wrote to Netanyahu. “We are confident that that with your deep understanding of the gravity of this situation, and your unprecedented political strength, you will ensure that the adoption of this letter does not take place.”

The letter was initiated and organized by the Israel Policy Forum (IPF), a centrist U.S. group that was formed in 1993 with the encouragement of the late Yitzhak Rabin to support the peace process with the Palestinians. After several years in which the organization virtually disappeared from the public eye, it has been undergoing a “rebirth” in recent months in support of a two-state solution.

“With the increasing polarization in the Jewish dialogue and the inability for people to talk to each other, we want to be a centrist, pragmatic voice and to attract different voices,” IPF Chairman Peter Joseph told Haaretz on Sunday. We wish to be a forum for discussing new ideas, in a rational and nuanced manner, and we have received very strong and positive reactions to our goals. Our common denominator is our commitment to a Jewish and democratic Israel.”

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