An open reply to the IPF Director and the Jewish leaders who advise PM Netanyahu to reject the Levy report

To David A. Halperin
Executive Director
Israel Policy Forum (IPF)                          August 7, 2012

Dear Mr. Halperin

Thank you for your email of August 5, in response to my letter to Mr. Bronfman and others of July 18.

As I understand you replied on behalf of Mr. Bronfman and all signatories to your original letter to PM Netanyahu, I ask you to kindly forward copies of this email them.

Contrary to the rationale of your letter, it must be emphasized that establishing the legality of Israel’s presence in the West Bank and a voluntary territorial compromise leading to two states are not mutually exclusive. As you wrote in your original letter, PM Netanyahu confirmed this when he told Congress “..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”

In this regard I ask whether all the signatories to your original letter subscribe to your disagreement with my view that when Israel sits at the negotiation table surely we will speak from greater moral as well as legal strength if we declare 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, but we are nevertheless prepared to compromise on territory in the interests of achieving peace?”

A subject cannot be meaningfully discussed unless all parties attach the same meaning to the words used and I therefore ask you to please state unambiguously what you (plural) mean by illegal settlements. Do you include Gush Etzion that was established before the state was declared, the Western Wall and access to Mount Scopus as illegally occupied territory that must be relinquished?

As your website states that IPF was created with the encouragement and support of the late lamented Yitzhak Rabin whose footsteps President Obama urged us to follow, it is reasonable to ask if you accept his concept of a two state solution?  A few weeks before he was assassinated, Rabin stated clearly that the new borders of Israel will include Ma’aleh Adumim aJewish nd the Jordan Valley which you insist are occupied illegally.

I am puzzled by your statement that your letter to PM Netanyahu did not seek to challenge the Levy Report’s legal analysis. How else is a reader meant to understand your statement that you 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?” To the reader, this can only mean that you challenge the complete report including the legal analysis.

Ignoring the several eminent legal authorities I named specifically in my letter and in the link I provided, you quote Nathaniel Berman of Brown University as saying with no substantiation at all, that it would not be an exaggeration to say that at least 90% of international lawyers reject the position of the Levy Report. With great respect I suggest that this unsubstantiated assumption is unworthy of an academic scholar as is his dismissal of the opinions of the late Eugene Rostow, not on their merits, but on Berman’s ad hominem view of Rostow as a person “whose writings on Israel coincided with his transformation from liberal Cold Warrior into neo-conservative hawk“. Berman evidently places no value on Rostow’s intimate involvement in drafting and consequent understanding of SC resolution 242 and refers to the former US Undersecretary of State merely as a government official.

As a Machal volunteer from abroad who served in the 1948 War of Independence, I don’t understand Raday and Rosenzweig’s statement that after that war Israel received about 55% of the territory intended to be partitioned in terms of resolution 181. From whom did we receive this apparent gift of 55%? The fact is that we acquired this territory in fighting back when we were attacked by the armies of Egypt,Lebanon,Jordan,Syria and Iraqi irregular forces.

Their statement about NON-BINDING GA resolutions in addition to 181 and quoting as an example the SC resolution 242 which in fact is BINDING is confusing to any reader unfamiliar with the details. More seriously, their statement that UN SC “Resolution 242 calls upon Israel to withdraw from territories occupied in The Six Day War” is misleading in that it omits the essential conditions that withdrawal from some, not all territories occupied in the conflict is subject to termination of all claims or states of belligerency and the right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.

Again with respect, I believe you err in stating that the message the Israeli government would send by declaring that settlements are legal would undermine trust. To the contrary, conceding to unjustified allegations that ALL “settlements” are and have been illegal since 1967 is an invitation that cannot be refused, to regard all Israeli governments since then as untrustworthy.

I especially appreciate your message of confidence that we share a concern for the lasting security and well-being of Israel as a strong, Jewish and democratic state. I sincerely hope you will accept this open letter in the constructive spirit I intend and that we will achieve a meeting of the minds.

Maurice Ostroff


About the Author
Maurice Ostroff is a founder member of the international Coalition of Hasbara Volunteers, better known by its acronym CoHaV, (star in Hebrew), a world-wide umbrella organization of volunteers active in combating anti-Israel media and political bias and in promoting the positive side of Israel His web site is at