Response by IPF to the open letter to Charles Bronfman and 40 Jewish leaders who call for rejection of the Levy Report

From David Halperin,
Executive Director
Israel Policy Forum (IPF)                       August 6, 2012

To: Maurice Ostroff
Subject: Your Letter Regarding Levy Letter Initiative
Dear Mr. Ostroff:

I received your thoughtful note of July 18th to Charles Bronfman in reference to the letter initiative by the Israel Policy Forum regarding the Levy Report. I’d like to direct your attention to an op-ed we published today in the Jerusalem Post regarding our initiative.

While our letter did not seek to challenge the Reports legal analysis, several international legal scholars have done so (below I am pasting two recent examples.) A worthy legal debate is underway.

Nathaniel Berman of Brown University recently wrote in The Times of Israel that:

It would not be an exaggeration to say that at least 90% of international lawyers including the International Court of Justice firmly reject the position that the report announces as representing the point of view of international law. Of course, one can argue that the overwhelming majority of international lawyers are wrong, either legally or morally or both. But it is odd, to say the least, to declare a position the point of view of international law without even bothering to mention that all but a handful of international lawyers, and all states but Israel, reject it.

In Maariv, Israeli legal scholars Frances Raday and Ido Rosenzweig recently wrote that:

The Committee’s reliance on UN General Assembly Resolution 181 of 1947, which dealt with the partition plan, is also puzzling. The partition plan envisaged the division of all the territory from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean between the Jews and the Arabs. After the War of Independence, Israel received about 55% of that territory within its 1948 borders. Furthermore, there are other General Assembly resolutions at the same non-binding level of Resolution 181 that state that the West Bank is occupied territory and that Israel should withdraw from it immediately and stop building settlements there. Thus, for example, UN Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967 calls upon Israel to withdraw from territories occupied in The Six Day War.

Even so, as our letter stated, we believe that the Levy Report will not strengthen Israel’s position in this conflict. In this regard, we respectfully disagree with your analysis that 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.

In order for negotiations to have a chance at producing a lasting agreement, the parties will have to build trust and demonstrate leadership. The message the Israeli government would send by adopting a report legalizing West Bank settlements is one that we believe would undermine trust, while providing the Palestinians with an excuse to avoid demonstrating real leadership by returning to the negotiating table.

At a time when the two-state solution is under assault, we believe that 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 Israels future as a Jewish and democratic state. We fear that, if adopted, the Levy Report would make this essential task more difficult to achieve.

Despite our disagreement, I am quite confident we share a concern for the lasting security and well-being of Israel as a strong, Jewish and democratic state. Thank you for your letter.


David A. Halperin
Executive Director
Israel Policy Forum (IPF)

Click here for a follow-up response to this letter


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