From Maurice Ostroff   December 30, 2012    

Dear Rabbi,  

I read with extreme sadness, your article in Times of Israel titled “An honorable tradition: rabbis dissent on E1 settlement plans for the sake of Israel

Sadness, because your subscribing to the letter by 400 American rabbis and cantors protesting E1 building plans contradicts the letter and spirit of your stated mission “to build Jewish community and draw Jews and their families closer to God, the Torah, Jewish tradition, the Jewish people, and the State of Israel as a Jewish national home“.    

Since you state that you regard social justice and high ethical practices as essential core Jewish religious values I assume Sir, that the erroneous statements that you and your fellow letter writers publicized widely, were not made with intent to mislead but rather as a result of misinformation to which you have been exposed in the media. 

Your claim that building in E1 would cut off the north and south of the West Bank and effectively block the establishment of a contiguous Palestinian state is dangerously misleading. A a glance at a readily available Google map shows immediately that a wide area remains between the eastern border of Maale Adumin, the Dead Sea and Jericho comparable with Israels 15km waist between Tulkarm on the West Bank and Netanya. For more detailed information please refer to my letter to the NY times


Map data 2012 Google, Maps GIsrael, ORION-ME

Your dramatic statement that you see the building of E1 as a dagger aimed at the heart of a two-state solution is therefore seen to be completely unjustified and irresponsibly harmful.   On December 16, the NY Times published the following correction which should convince you of the fact that your public statements about E1 are false.

An article on Dec. 2 about Israel’s decision to move forward with planning and zoning for settlements in an area east of Jerusalem known as E1 described imprecisely the effect of such development on access to the cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem from Jerusalem, and on the West Bank. Development of E1 would limit access to Ramallah and Bethlehem, leaving narrow corridors far from the OldCity and downtown Jerusalem; it would not completely cut off those cities from Jerusalem. It would also create a large block of Israeli settlements in the center of the West Bank; it would not divide the West Bank in two. And because of an editing error, the article referred incompletely to the possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state. Critics see E1 as a threat to the meaningful contiguity of such a state because it would leave some Palestinian areas connected by roads with few exits or by circuitous routes; the proposed development would not technically make a contiguous Palestinian state impossible.

You say that you and your fellow signers believe you have a Jewish and moral obligation to speak out now because decisions such as this are endangering the basic principles on which Israel was established, but Sir, I trust you will agree that while you are entitled to your opinions you do not have the right to misrepresent facts.    

I agree with your belief in a two state solution with two states living side by side in peace like the USA and Canada. But as a Machalnik who served as a volunteer from abroad in the 1948 war of Independence, I am conscious of minimum security considerations as was our late revered Yitzhak Rabin. I remind you that contrary to the current call for returning to indefensible 1967 lines, President Obama in a video message to the November 8, 2009 Rabin Rally in Tel Aviv urged us to follow in the footsteps of Yitzchak Rabin. And this is what Rabin z’l said in his last speech to the Knesset a few weeks before the tragic assassination

“We view the permanent solution in the framework of State of Israel which will include most of the area of the Land of Israel as it was under the rule of the British Mandate, and alongside it a Palestinian entity which will be a home to most of the Palestinian residents living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.  We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines.   First and foremost, united Jerusalem, which will include both Ma’ale Adumim and Givat Ze’ev — as the capital of Israel, under Israeli sovereignty.. The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the JordanValley, in the broadest meaning of that term..  Changes which will include the addition of Gush Etzion, Efrat, Beitar and other communities, most of which are in the area east of what was the “Green Line,” prior to the Six Day War. The establishment of blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria, like the one inGush Katif”.

As Rabin intended to retain Ma’aleh Adumim, it would be beyond reason to envisage that he intended to leave it disconnected from Jerusalem by leaving E1 vacant. In fact in October 1994 Rabin expanded Maale Adumim to include E1 and he provided the mayor of Maale Adumim Benny Kashriel with annexation documents. 

Your claim that any Jewish leader who criticizes the Israeli government is immediately targeted as a fifth columnist is an exaggeration. And here I paraphrase your quote from the Babylonian Talmud (Shabbat 54b) that all who can protest against something wrong and do not protest, are held accountable. When Rabbis, JStreet and others publicly offer ill-considered and potentially dangerous advice to Israel based on misconceptions and distorted information, concerned citizens are duty bound to protest as I am doing now.    

Rabbi Rosove, I assume you are familiar with the social sciences law of unintended consequences. Let us assume that as a result of pressure by well meaning but misinformed Rabbis,  the US government forces Israel to accept a Palestinian state with inadequate security considerations in regard to borders. I ask, in all sincerity, on what you base your confidence that Hamas will not soon assume control of the new state (as appears very likely) and launch missiles at aircraft landing at nearby Ben Gurion airport and that your well meant efforts will not result in more Israeli and Palestinian deaths as happened after evacuation of Gaza?   

You state that the lack of a two-state solution is a threat to Israels existence and I ask you to consider that a hastily designed solution without adequate security guarantees poses a much greater existential danger. In the circumstances I plead with you to please examine all relevant factors before publicizing opinions that affect us all and with respect I suggest you view this video clip  and recommend it to your congregation.    

In the spirit of your stated mission “to build Jewish community and draw Jews and their families closer to God, the Torah, Jewish tradition, the Jewish people, and the State of Israel as a Jewish national home” I earnestly seek your support in ensuring the survival of Israel by protesting the current popular but uninformed call for returning to indefensible 1967 lines rather than to defensible borders as called for in resolution 242.    

I will be grateful if you will kindly distribute this letter to the other 399 signatories.    

Moreover, I trust you will accept that truth and recanting of erroneous statements are fundamental to the justice and ethics to which you subscribe and that in the same manner as the New York Times corrected their misstatements you will not only have the courage to publicly correct your erroneous statements in the light of the above information, but that you will also recommend that your fellow signatories do the same.   Sincerely,

Maurice Ostroff