WASHINGTON – A group of 100 American Jews, among them prominent philanthropists,
rabbis and academics, has written a letter urging Israel to take concrete steps
The letter, initiated by the Israel Policy Forum, came in
the wake of US President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel last month.
believe that this is a compelling moment for you and your new government to
respond to President Obama’s call for peace by taking concrete confidence
building steps designed to demonstrate Israel’s commitment to a ‘two states for
two peoples’ solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the letter told
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
It also urged him to “work closely
with Secretary of State John 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.”
included philanthropists Charles Bronfman, S. Daniel Abraham and Lester Crowne;
Rabbis Eric Yoffie and David Saperstein, leaders of the Reform movement; and
former Pentagon official Dov Zakheim and former US congressman Mel
Israel Policy Forum chairman Peter Joseph said the organization
had yet to hear a response from the Prime Minister’s Office, which was sent the
letter earlier in the week.
“This group and the larger Jewish American
community have a huge stake in Israel and I think it’s important for leaders
here and in Israel to be aware that if they’re prepared to take steps and show
leadership, those steps will be respected and encouraged,” Joseph said of the
importance of sending the letter.
Morrie Amitay, a former executive
director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, made clear, however,
that many American Jews did not support sending such a letter to Israel’s
The letter, he said, “should be calling on the Palestinians
to provide concrete confidence- building steps instead of Israel.”
defended the letter, noting that it included a passage arguing that such steps
from Israel “would challenge Palestinian leaders to take similarly constructive
steps, including, most importantly, a prompt return to the negotiating
Joseph also suggested that those who signed this letter could
have more impact on fellow Jews than on Palestinians, who he said need to make
their own call on their leaders for steps toward peace.