Levy Committee Member Angrily Rejects Protest Letter by American Leaders

Alan Baker, former FM legal adviser, accuses signers of Israel Policy Forum letter of “insulting” remarks, “incorrect” assumptions – and of failing to read the report in the first place.

One of the members of the Levy Committee on the legality of settlements in the territories has angrily rebuffed the protest letter against its final report sent to Prime Minister Netanyahu earlier this week, accusing its signatories of “insulting” the committee members, making “incorrect and ill-advised assumptions” and of providing ammunition to those seeking to delegitimize Israel.

In a letter addressed to the Israeli Policy Forum, which initiated and sponsored the protest letter, former Foreign Ministry legal adviser and Ambassador to Canada Alan Baker expresses doubt whether the American leaders and scholars who signed the letter “have actually read the contents of the report,” because it is in Hebrew and it has not been translated into English.

“From the content and tenor of the letter, I suspect that the signatories are basing themselves on selective media reports and other sources that in fact bear no relation whatsoever to the actual content of the Levy Commission report itself,” Baker wrote.

The IPF letter that criticized the report was signed by 41 American leaders and scholars, including Rabbi Daniel Gordis, Charles Bronfman, Lester Crown, Tom Dine, Professor Deborah Lipstadt, Rabbi Eric Yoffie and Marcia Riklis. The letter urged Prime Minister Netanyahu to “ensure that the adoption of this letter does not take place.”

Baker, who served on the committee together with former Supreme Court judge Edmund Levy and former Tel Aviv District Court judge Tchia Shapira, rejects the protesters claim that the report jeopardizes the two-state solution and “adds fuel to those who seek to legitimize Israel’s right to exist.” Baker writes that such a claim is devoid of any basis “other than insulting to myself and the other members of the Commission in light of our respective contributions to the welfare and prestige of Israel.”

The Levy report stoked international controversy by finding that Israel is not an “occupier” in the West Bank and that Jewish settlements are legal. But Baker asserts that this is “no different from Israel's policy statements over the years, including speeches by all of Israel's leaders and ambassadors in the United Nations, as well as in official policy documents issued by the Foreign Ministry.”

And seeking to turn the tables on the message of the leaders who signed the letter, Baker writes: “With great respect, it is surely the publication of incorrect and ill-advised assumptions regarding the Report, including those echoed in the above-noted letter, that adds the fuel to those who seek to delegitimize Israel's right to exist.”

Reacting to Baker’s criticism, IPF Executive Director David Halperin wrote in an email to Haaretz: “In short, Ambassador Baker seems to have misunderstood the nature of our concerns, which stem from the added impediments the Levy Report poses for achieving a diplomatic solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict-not the technical and legal reasoning used to arrive at its conclusions, which is irrelevant to our concern."

Halperin added that as the letter indicated, IPF's fear is "that the Levy Report will not strengthen Israel's position in this conflict," and "At this moment, it is more critical than ever that Israel strengthen its claim in the international community that it is committed to a two-state vision, which is, in turn, central to Israel's future as a Jewish and democratic state."

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Edmond Levy, left, presenting the report to Netanyahu.
Amos Ben-Gershom
Members of the settler hilltop youth rebuild a structure demolished earlier by Israeli troops in the West Bank outpost of Maoz Esther, near Ramallah. May 2009
AP/Sebastian Scheiner