In the wake of U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel and on the eve of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s return, 100 prominent American Jews have sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urging him to “work closely” with Kerry “to devise pragmatic initiatives, consistent with Israel’s security needs, which would represent Israel’s readiness to make painful territorial sacrifices for the sake of peace.”
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In the letter, initiated and organized by the pro-peace Israel Policy Forum and delivered Wednesday to the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem and to the Israeli Embassy in Washington, the Jewish leaders call on Netanyahu to “take concrete confidence building measures designed to demonstrate Israel’s commitment” to a two-state solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict.
The letter does not contain any criticism of Israeli policies. It lauds Obama’s recent visit to Israel and commends Netanyahu’s “leadership” in resolving the Marmara dispute with Turkey. It states that by taking the recommended steps, Netanyahu would be challenging the Palestinian leaders to “take similarly constructive steps, including, most importantly, a return to the negotiating table.”
The signatories to the letter include well-know philanthropists such as Charles Bronfman, Danny Abraham, Lester Crown and Stanley Gold; former U.S. Undersecretary of Defense Dov Zakheim; former U.S. Congressman Mel Levine; former AIPAC executive director Tom Dine; Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt; President of United Reform Judaism Rabbi Rick Jacobs and his predecessor Rabbi Eric Yoffie; Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson; Warner Eisenberg co-founder of Bed, Bath and Beyond; Peter Joseph, Chairman of IPF; former UJA Chairman Marvin Lender; Richard Pearlstone, former chairman of the Jewish Agency and Marcia Riklis, Campaign Chair of the UJA Federation of New York.
Jacobs said Wednesday "It was clear to me that President Obama's trip was an historic one. It would be beneficial to both the U.S. and to Israel to build on the momentum created by that trip to look for fresh ways to create a way to move beyond the log-jam of the current Israeli-Palestinian situation to a just two-state solution, especially at a time when the region is so fraught with uncertainty regarding other countries in the region."
Launched in 1993 in the wake of the Oslo Accords, the IPF describes itself as a “centrist and pragmatic” organization which is both a think tank and an advocacy group. The IPF played a prominent role in U.S.-Israeli relations throughout the 1990’s, reaching its zenith in the 2001 event in which former U.S. President Bill Clinton detailed his “parameters” for a Palestinian-Israeli final settlement.
The influence and stature of the organization diminished, however, during the last decade, following 9/11 and the Second Intifada. Its current chairman, Joseph, along with executive director David Halperin are now leading an effort to revitalize the group and to regain some of its former stature.
Halperin said Wednesday that the new letter to Netanyahu represents a “unique collection” of prominent American Jews who are committed to a two-state solution and to Israel’s security.