Daniel Gordis said "no" to the Levy Report in signing on to the far-left "Open Letter" released this week which has been fisked a bit here. At Haaretz, rather than his usual Jerusalem Post base, he defends his co-joining the left-of-center American Jews who decided to become very publicly upset at the publication of the Levy Report on Israel''s rights in, and to, Judea and Samaria.  He published this piece, Choose hope: Don''t adopt the Levy report.

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In short, he thinks that

To state publicly that what we have in Judea and Samaria is not an occupation might be a legally justifiable claim. But it would also signal that it is time to give up even thinking about how a different reality in the Middle East might be achieved. That, we must not do.

Might be?  And why is that "different reality" abhorrent enough for Gordis to join the left-of-center crowd, lend them his name, and that of the Shalem Center?  Is the issue that important for him to decide to run with this group of Israeli critics?

Well, we need to review his thinking and so here are some extracts from his defense:-

The letter did not argue that Justice Levy’s legal argument was legally incorrect; it also took no stand on settlement issue writ large...The letter simply asserts that if the Prime Minister adopts the Levy Commission report, he will do Israel serious damage.

And how much damage does the letter cause, and I am not arguing that Gordis, et al., do not have the legal right to publish their thinking, but need it have been such a public shaming?  That caused no damage or is it only the damage Netanyahu could possibly cause that is a problem?

He then outlines the damage to Pals. are doing to themselves:

Sadly, Israel has no partner with which to make peace. Today’s Palestinian leadership insists on the refugees’ right of return, something Israel cannot permit if it is to remain a Jewish State. The Palestinians have also rejected Netanyahu’s demand that they recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State, something that Israel must insist on if precluding the refugees’ return is to be defensible. Neither of those will change anytime soon.

He skips over a bit of terror, some incitement, the corrupt regime that is the Palestinian Authority vis-a-vis its own people and other aspects of a horrific reality but that is ignored.  Given, though, those two problematic demands, what is Israel to do?  Well,

...A wise Israeli leadership would do everything in its power to communicate to the world that beyond those two existential issues [Israel as a Jewish state and the no return of refugees - YM], which are not negotiable, Israel will discuss virtually anything. There are matters on which Israel will compromise, and others on which it will not...

What "anything" is "virtual"? What issues can be compromised?


True Arab democracy?


IDF presence, long- or short-term on the Jordan River?

Educational curriculum change?

What about Rabin''s formula?  From his October 5,1995 Knesset speech, where he summarized his

...vision of the permanent solution. It will include united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty, the country''s security border will be on the River Jordan, there will be no return to the 4 June 1967 lines and new blocs of settlements will be built in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip. He spoke of the coming elections to the Palestinian Council, the IDF''s re-deployment and the creation of three zones in the territories.

Or that isn''t left or liberal enough for Gordis'' fellow-signers?

Israel should not establish itself on principles of law?

...While the Levy Commission insisted that its findings were legal and not political, that distinction would be utterly lost on the international community.

Really?  And here we all thought that the most incriminating charge against Israel''s presence beyond the Green Line, what justifies the BDS movement, was the illegality of it all.  That charge the world does understand but Israel proving that its presence in not illegal is incomprehensible?  "Illegality" subverts Israel''s legitimacy but to disprove that is somehow no good?

Gordis then takes a large step forward which all Israel''s governments have avoided for 45 years and more and asserts that now it will lose its ability to maintain a status quo which serves its policies best of all:

Observers everywhere would read the adoption of the Levy report as tantamount to annexing the West Bank. 

I hope.  But I don''t think so.  And I am pretty sure Gordis knows that Netanyahu will not do that either.  Not because he doesn''t want it but that in everything else he has done in his second term as Prime Minister has been to cover Israel with the US for the Iranian threat.  Gordis knows that that is what Bibi has been doing and so there was no need for him to publicly shame him and Israel in such a manner.

Moreover, he thinks profound damage will be caused:

It would be read as putting the Palestinians on notice that Israel plans never to evacuate any settlements, and that hopes for a Palestinian state are dead.

Wait.  With peace, and coexistence, being the goal to be achieved with the Arabs resident in the areas of the former Mandate that was established to "reconstitute" the Jewish National Home not under Israel''s sovereignty, why should Jews remove themselves from where they live?

Will Arabs be removed from Nazereth, Rahat, Um El-Fahm?  Are Jews to be treated to a very different - and discriminatory and even immoral - reality?

He is also concerned that:

...Israelis [will think] their political leadership believes that the status quo is actually the ideal and that young people should give up even dreaming that the conflict might, one day, be behind us. Can we imagine ourselves in an interminable conflict without numbing our moral sensibilities?

Well, better a status quo that provides security rather than a jump off the cliff is what most Israelis prefer.

He then waxes emotional:

Zionism at its best is aspirational..Zionism struggles to survive...It hopes for a richer and more sophisticated conversation about how a state can be Jewish. It should aspire to greater social equality. And it should yearn for a day when its sons and daughters will not have to go to war...

Zionism also strives for the time when Jews in the Diaspora, more properly, the Galut/Exile, will stop seeing themselves as equal to the Jewish community in Israel.  Yes, we are partners, yes we share the same visionary aspirations, the same wish for a thriving Jewish culture.  But Jews abroad need know that there is a line that doesn''t always have to be crossed.  To be Jewish, nowadays, seems, especially in the camp Gordis chose to be aligned with, is to show just how much you can criticize Israel. 

"I criticize Israel, thereby I am" is the now catchword, and so Gordis psoits that

To state publicly now that what we have in Judea and Samaria is not an occupation might be a legally justifiable claim. But it would also signal that it is time to give up even thinking about how a different reality in the Middle East might be achieved. That, we must not do.

Rabbi Dr. Gordis, Daniel, you erred in your own aspirational exuberance.  You erred in the ''friends'' you chose.

As you wrote: "Not for naught is Israel’s anthem called “The Hope”, and yes, so we, too, have hope - for you.

As it is written in Psalms, in order to achieve peace, one must first distance oneself from evil.  One must stop speaking guile and do good.


Amb. Baker has now responded.  An excerpt:-

Permit me, with respect, to presume that had the signatories read the report, they would not find any reason to claim, as stated in the letter, that the report “will place the two-state solution, and the prestige of Israel as a democratic member of the international community, in peril.”

Similarly, the description of the report as “legal maneuverings” and as something that will “add fuel to those who seek to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist,” 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, is totally devoid of any basis.

The central and reasoned conclusion of the report, reaffirming the legal and historic rights and claims of Israel with regard to the area and the nature of Israel’s presence therein, 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 over the years by Israel’s Foreign Ministry.

There is nothing in the report that could in any way be interpreted as placing the “two-state solution” in peril. The opposite is in fact the case. The report reiterates, in paragraph 9, that despite Israel’s well-based and solid legal and historical claims to sovereignty over the area and the right of Israelis to settle therein in accordance with the requisite legal norms and requirements, as set out in the body of the report, consecutive Israeli governments have chosen to opt and continue to opt in favor of conducting bone fide and pragmatic negotiations with the representatives of the Palestinian people and the Arab states, with a view to determine the fate of the area.


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