From Maurice Ostroff July 18, 2012
At the outset I emphasize that nothing in the following letter contradicts my advocacy of a peaceful two state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict in terms of SC resolution 242.
However, because of the prestige of the signatories to your letter to PM Netanyahu and the publicity it has received I ask you, with great respect to please explain exactly what you mean.
To understand your letter it is important that readers know whether, in rejecting the Levy report you refer only to its recommendations or whether you also deny, without explanation, its fully argued conclusion that under international law the “establishment of settlements cannot, in and of itself, be considered illegal”.
If, as appears from your letter, you challenge the legality of all settlements without distinction including for example Ma’aleh Adumim and Gush Etzion, I ask whether you are aware of the fact that the Levy Report’s conclusions on the legality of settlements under international law are supported by a large body of eminent authorities and jurists. They include Julius Stone one of the 20th century leading authorities on the Law of Nations, Eugene W. Rostow former US Undersecretary of State who played a leading role in Resolution 242 and Jacques Gauthier, the non-Jewish lawyer who spent 20 years researching the legal status of Jerusalem See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28qwcVPNy3E
Also William M. Brinton who showed convincingly that no state, other than Israel, can show a better title to the West Bank, Sir Elihu Lauterpacht CBE QC the British specialist in international law, Simon H. Rifkind Judge of the United States District Court who wrote an in depth analysis “The basic equities of the Palestine problem” Abrahan Tulin, member of the New York Bar; Milton Handler, Professor of law, Columbia University, Murray L. Gurfein member of the New York Bar, Abe Fortas, former Undersecretary of Interior of the United States, Lawrence R. Eno member of the New York Bar and Professor Stephen M. Schwebel, former Deputy Legal Advisor of the U.S. State Department and President of the International Court of Justice. For more details see http://www.2nd-thoughts.org/id351.html
With great respect I also ask you to please reconsider your mistaken conclusion that “the Levy Report will not strengthen Israel’s position in this conflict, but rather add fuel to those who seek to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist”. To the obvious contrary, it is the unjustified allegation of “illegality” that is used as a weapon to delegitimize Israel and your widely publicized letter reinforces that weapon without providing an iota of evidence to support your opinions.
I am particularly disturbed that you reject the Levy report not because you believe its conclusions are wrong but because of your unsubstantiated fear, that if approved, it will place the two-state solution in peril. It is incomprehensible that esteemed leaders do not judge a report on its merits but rather on its political implications irrespective of the validity of the report’s findings.
Surely the report’s conclusions on the legalities need to be treated completely differently than its recommendations. Logically the legalities must be treated as objectively as is humanly possible based on ascertainable facts whereas there is much room for debate on a political and philosophical level as to the optimum actions to be taken in the light of the legal conclusions.
I agree with your statement that “Securing Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state requires diplomatic and political leadership” but I add that it also calls for RESPONSIBLE leadership and I am very disturbed that eminent leaders lightly offer irresponsible conclusions; like your description of the report as “legal maneuvering”, without any effort to justify this description of the 89 page document prepared by a panel comprising former Israeli Supreme Court justice Edmund Levy, former Foreign Ministry legal adviser Alan Baker and former deputy president of the Tel Aviv District Court Tchia Shapiro.
Logical deduction leads to the diametrically opposite conclusion to your stated fear that “the Levy Report will not strengthen Israel’s position in this conflict, but rather add fuel to those who seek to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist”. To the glaring contrary, it is the allegation of “illegality” that is used as a weapon to delegitimize Israel and your widely publicized letter reinforces that weapon.
Accepting Levy’s conclusions about legality of the settlements does not prevent Israel from making voluntary territorial concessions. As you quote, PM Netanyahu has declared “I recognize that in a genuine peace, we’ll be required to give up parts of the ancestral Jewish homeland.”
When Israel sits at the negotiation table surely it will speak from greater moral as well as legal strength if it declares that according to international law as established by several respected authorities as well as by the Levy report, Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria is legal. Nevertheless, although we have no legal obligation to do so, we are prepared to make territorial concessions because we believe it to be the right thing to do in the interests of peace.
On the other hand our position would be so much weaker if your unsubstantiable view is adopted that our presence in the West Bank is illegal and we relinquish control of what would in those false circumstances be determined to be stolen property.
Text of the letter by US Jews to PM Netanyahu
The Honorable Benjamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister of the State of Israel
Dear Mr. Prime Minister:
As strong advocates for Israel’s security and well-being as a Jewish and democratic state, we are deeply concerned about the recent findings of the government commission led by Supreme Court Jurist (Ret.) Edmund Levy. We fear that if approved, this report will place the two-state solution, and the prestige of Israel as a democratic member of the international community, in peril.
As you boldly stated in your address to the United States Congress last May, “I recognize that in a genuine peace, we’ll be required to give up parts of the ancestral Jewish homeland.” As you said clearly, doing so is not easy. While the Jewish people indeed share a biblical connection to the lands of Judea and Samaria, you told Congress, “there is another truth: The Palestinians share this small land with us. We seek a peace in which they’ll 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.”
Securing Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state requires diplomatic and political leadership, not legal maneuverings. We recognize and regret that the Palestinian Authority has abdicated leadership by not returning to the negotiating table. Nonetheless, our great fear is that the Levy Report will not strengthen Israel’s position in this conflict, but rather add fuel to those who seek to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist. 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.
We are confident that with your deep understanding of the gravity of this situation, and your unprecedented political strength, you will ensure that adoption of this report does not take place.
Karen R. Adler
Jack C. Bendheim
Howard M. Bernstein
Charles R. Bronfman
Steven M. Cohen
Rabbi Marion Lev Cohen
Thomas A. Dine
Rabbi David Ellenson
E. Robert Goodkind
Stanley P. Gold
Rabbi Daniel Gordis
David A. Halperin
Harold R. Handler
Alan S. Jaffe
Peter A. Joseph
Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky
Peter S. Kolevzon
Steven C. Koppel
Geoffrey H. Lewis
Rabbi J. Rolando Matalon
Rabbi Jennie Rosenn
Rabbi David Saperstein
Jeffrey R. Solomon
Joel D. Tauber
Melvyn I. Weiss
Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie
Michael D. Young
Affiliations provided below for identification purposes only
Karen R. Adler (New York, NY) – Chair, Executive Committee of the Jewish Communal Fund
Jack C. Bendheim (New York, NY) – President & Chairman, Phibro Animal Health Corp.; former Chairman, IPF
Michael Berenbaum (Los Angeles, CA) – Director of the Sigi Ziering Institute: Exploring the Ethical and Religious Implications of the Holocaust at the American Jewish University; former Project Director of the US Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC
Howard M. Bernstein (Los Angeles, CA) – Emeritus Member of Board of Governors of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion; Honorary Board Member, Wilshire Boulevard Temple
Charles R. Bronfman (New York, NY; Montreal) – Chairman, Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies
Rabbi Marion Lev Cohen (New York, NY) – Board Member, Israel Policy Forum; Director of Adult Engagement, Central Synagogue
Steven M. Cohen (New York, NY) – Director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at New York University
Lester Crown (Chicago, IL) – Chairman of Henry Crown & Co.; Crown Family Philanthropies
Thomas A. Dine (Washington, DC) – Former Executive Director of AIPAC
Rabbi David Ellenson (New York, NY) – President, Hebrew Union College –Jewish Institute of Religion
Edith Everett (New York, NY) Co-founder and President, Everett Family Foundation
Susie Gelman (Washington, DC) – Immediate Past President, Jewish Federation of Greater Washington
Stanley P. Gold (Los Angeles, CA) – Chairman Emeritus, Jewish Federation of LA; President and CEO, Shamrock Holdings
E. Robert Goodkind (New York, NY) – Partner, Pryor Cashman LLP; former President, American Jewish Committee (’04-’07)
Rabbi Daniel Gordis (Jerusalem) – Senior Vice President and the Koret Distinguished Fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem
David A. Halperin (New York, NY) – Executive Director, Israel Policy Forum
Harold R. Handler (New York, NY) – Former President, JCC in Manhattan; Former Chairman, Jewish Communal Fund; Board Member, Israel Policy Forum
Alan S. Jaffe (New York, NY) – President, Jewish Community Relations Council-NY; former President, UJA-Federation-NY; former Chairman, Proskauer
Peter A. Joseph (New York, NY) – Chairman, Israel Policy Forum
Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky (New York, NY) – Temple Ansche Chesed
Peter S. Kolevzon (New York, NY) – Founding Chair and Past President, JCC in Manhattan
Steven C. Koppel (New York, NY) – Partner, JonesDay; Member, International Board of Governors, The Peres Center for Peace
Burton Lehman (New York, NY) – Former Chair and Member of the Board of Governors of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute Religion
Marvin Lender (Connecticut) – Former National Chairman, UJA
Geoffrey H. Lewis (Boston, MA) – Board Member, Israel Policy Forum
Deborah Lipstadt (Atlanta, GA) – Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University
Rabbi J. Rolando Matalon (New York, NY) – Congregation Bnai Jeshurun
Harriet Mouchly-Weiss (New York, NY) – Board Member, Israel Policy Forum
Burt Neuborne (New York, NY) – Professor of Law, NYU
Bernard Nussbaum (New York, NY) – Former White House Counsel (’94); Partner, Wachtell Lipton, Rosen & Katz
Richard Pearlstone (Aspen, CO) – Former Chairman, Jewish Agency
Marcia Riklis (New York, NY) – Board member, Israel Policy Forum; General Campaign Co-Chair, UJA Federation-NY
Rabbi Jennie Rosenn (New York, NY) – Program Director, Jewish Life and Values, Nathan Cummings Foundation
David Sable (New York, NY) – Former Executive Board Member, UJA Federation-NY
Rabbi David Saperstein (Washington, DC) – Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Jeffrey R. Solomon (New York, NY) – President, Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies
Joel D. Tauber (Southfield, MI) – Former Chairman, National UJA; former National Chairman of Tel Aviv University: American Council
Melvyn I. Weiss (New York, NY) – Board Member, Israel Policy Forum
Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie (New York, NY) – President Emeritus, Union for Reform Judaism
Michael D. Young (New York, NY) – Board Member, Israel Policy Forum
Lawrence Zicklin (New York, NY) – Former President, UJA Federation-NY