Itamar settlement hilltop 311 R.
(photo credit: Abed Omar Qusini / Reuters)
More than 40 prominent American Jewish leaders and philanthropists condemned a
government-initiated report, calling for the legalization of West Bank outposts,
in a letter they delivered to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on
The leaders wrote they were “deeply concerned” by the report,
which said that under international law Israel did not occupy the West Bank and
had a legal right to build settlements there.
Netanyahu plans to hold a
debate on the report – published last Monday – with the Ministerial Committee on
Settlements, which has the power to approve it. He is waiting to schedule that
meeting until he receives an advisory opinion on the report from Attorney-
General Yehuda Weinstein.
But in their letter to Netanyahu the leaders
said they were concerned that approval of the report would “place the two-state
solution, and the prestige of Israel as a democratic member of the international
community, in peril.”
“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,” they added.
The report was penned by a
three-member legal panel led by former Supreme Court justice Edmond Levy, former
Foreign Ministry legal adviser Alan Baker and former deputy president of the Tel
Aviv District Court Tehiya Shapira. Dubbed the “Levy Report,” its conclusion
flies in the face of the UN’s conclusion that settlements are illegal under
international law – a view that enjoys much global support.
Palestinians have also insisted they will only hold direct negotiations with
Israel if halts settlement activity.
The US leaders called on Netanyahu
to take a stand against the report.
“Securing Israel’s future as a Jewish
and democratic state requires diplomatic and political leadership, not legal
maneuverings,” they wrote.
They asked him to “ensure that adoption of
this report does not take place.”
Signatories to the letter included:
Michael Berenbaum, former project director of the US Holocaust Museum in
Washington; Charles R. Bronfman, philanthropist; Lester Crown, chairman of the
Henry Crown & Co. investment firm; Thomas A. Dine, former executive director
of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee; Rabbi David Ellenson, president
of Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion; Peter A. Joseph, chairman
of the Israel Policy Forum; and Richard Pearlstone, former chairman of the
The letter was organized by the Israel Policy Forum, a
nonpartisan US organization that advocates for Israel’s longterm security and a