How sound is US Jewish leaders advice to Israel?

The incessantly repeated claim that the Levy report declared the West Bank is not “occupied” is not quite accurate.

MA’ALEH ADUMIM 370 (photo credit: Reuters)
(photo credit: Reuters)
Though well-intentioned, the letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu from The Israel Policy Forum signed by more than 40 American Jewish leaders urging him to reject the Levy Report is counterproductive, and their Jerusalem Post article titled “Israel’s future depends on two states” defending that letter compounds the error.
As it has not been translated to English, it is reasonable to ask whether all or even one of the eminent US leaders who subscribed to the IPF letter has read the 100-page Levy Report. The question is important because in their letter they purport to understand the report’s implications and ramifications sufficiently to confidently advise the prime minister about how to deal with it and furthermore to publish their advice internationally, before giving the prime minister an opportunity to respond.
Of course, they could have obtained their insight into the report from media articles, but then their knowledge of it would be very limited and would depend on their favorite media. Neither right- nor left-wing politicians, nor media, have published any rational in-depth analyses of the report.
Rather, they have all been guilty of kneejerk hysterical and misleading reactions. J Street proclaimed: “Levy committee recommendations disastrous for prospects of twostate solution.” Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On said the Levy committee was formed only to justify the vermin of illegal outposts after the High Court of Justice and the attorney-general were not good enough for Netanyahu, and on the right wing, National Union MK Arieh Eldad said the report smashes into pieces the mantra of “occupation” as far as international law is concerned and Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely described the report as the key to creating a long-term change that will eventually lead to the complete application of Israeli law over Judea and Samaria.
None of these emotional comments throws any light on the gist of the document and it is disappointing that eminent leaders allow themselves to be influenced by this type of obviously irresponsible outbursts without taking the precaution of sorting the wheat from the chaff.
Even the most conservative media have been careless in interpreting the report. For example, the incessantly repeated claim that the report declared the West Bank is not “occupied” is not quite accurate.
What it actually said was that classic laws of occupation as set out in the relevant international conventions cannot be considered applicable to the unique historical and legal circumstances of Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria spanning decades, a conclusion arrived after serious scholarly research that cannot be summarily dismissed.
It is worth observing, too, that in urging rejection of the entire Levy Report, the IPF also rejects its severe criticisms of the settlement policies of successive Israeli governments and its recommendations to put things right.
The government is advised to clarify its policy regarding settlement in Judea and Samaria with a view to preventing future interpretation of its decisions in a mistaken or overly creative manner. It recommends that new settlements may only be established by the government and that the municipal boundaries of settlements be finalized, with local authorities empowered to approve planning within these boundaries and ministerial approval being required for any construction beyond them.
The most puzzling aspect of the defending article is the contention by the writers that adopting the report may bolster Israel’s critics who take every opportunity to question the state’s legitimacy, even within its existing borders. Surely logic dictates that it is the IPF’s internationally published implied contention, that all Israeli settlements, including Gush Etzion which was established before the state was declared and even the Western Wall are illegal, that gives unconditional support to our critics.
Contrary to the IPF’s contention, Israel’s position is strengthened by the Levy Report’s conclusion, substantiated by intellectually sound reasoning that our presence in the West bank is not illegal but that we are nevertheless prepared to make territorial compromises in the interests of peace. As Netanyahu told Congress last month, “The Palestinians share this small land with us. We seek a peace in which they will be neither Israel’s subjects nor its citizens. They should enjoy a national life of dignity as a free, viable and independent people living in their own state.”
Interestingly, IPF’s website states that it was created with the encouragement and support of the late, lamented Yitzhak Rabin whose footsteps President Obama urged us to follow.
It is therefore reasonable to expect its leaders to accept his concept of a two-state solution, bearing in mind that only a few weeks before he was assassinated, Rabin stated clearly that the new borders of Israel will include Ma’aleh Adumim and the Jordan Valley which the IPF letter now insists are occupied illegally.
The writer is a freelance commentator on current affairs. His website is