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US Jewish group urges concessions
By HAVIV RETTIG GUR
05/17/2010
Activist petition calls on Israel, PA to ensure success of talks.
 
A group of American Jewish activists and leaders has signed a petition calling on the Israelis and Palestinians to offer “significant concessions and commitments by both sides” to enable the “extremely fragile” proximity talks to succeed.

The petition, which models itself after a similar initiative by a group of European Jews last month, has garnered the signatures of some of the most highly placed Jewish thinkers and activists.

The list includes Jeffrey Solomon, the chief executive of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, Rabbi Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus, the head of the Reform rabbinate’s umbrella body, and Prof. Steven Cohen, a respected Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion scholar of Jewish sociology and demographics.

“We believe without reservation that ‘Israel is the national home of the Jewish people,’” the petition states, quoting from Israel’s own Declaration of Independence, “and we therefore feel both entitled and obligated to make our views known.”

As with the European JCall petition and the Washington-based J Street organization, this petition also “endorse[s] the American government’s vigorous encouragement of the parties to make the concessions necessary for negotiations to advance.

“Together with all Israeli citizens, both Jews and Arabs, we lament the decades of death and destruction that have plagued the Land of Israel,” it reads. “We categorically condemn terrorism and we mourn the tragic loss of blood and treasure that has afflicted the region over the years.”

However, “at the same time, we abhor the continuing occupation that has persisted for far too long; it cannot and should not be sustained.

“Ultimately, the long-term security and welfare of the democratic Jewish State of Israel depend upon a genuine resolution of the conflict within the framework of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in comity,” the petition states.

Citing the “extremely fragile hope” for peace represented by the proximity talks, the petition calls on Israel to immediately “cease construction of housing in the disputed territories,” “dismantle the settlements considered illegal under Israeli law,” and “protect Palestinians from maltreatment and violence by extreme elements of the settler community.”

It also calls on Israel to “set aside its insistence on exclusive sovereignty over all of expanded Jerusalem, including Arab neighborhoods, where, we anticipate, the designated capital of the new state of Palestine will be located.”

The Palestinians, too, must end terrorism and “set aside their claimed ‘right of return’ to Israel, which would undermine the very notion of a Jewish state.”

They must also “vigorously oppose incitement against Israel.”

While acknowledging that “it is the citizens of Israel and their neighbors who will decide on their future,” the petition insists on the signatories’ right “to call attention to decisions the government of Israel takes which, in our view, endanger the State we hold so dear.”
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