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Yoffie urges Jerusalem moratorium

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The leader of the Reform movement called for a temporary moratorium on building in eastern Jerusalem.

In remarks delivered March 18 to the board of trustees of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Eric Yoffie noted Reform’s commitment to Israel’s claim to Jerusalem and its right to build there.

"The Union for Reform Judaism, like most American Jewish organizations, supports a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty," the URJ president said. "This means that we believe housing units constructed in Jerusalem by Israel are not settlements and they are not illegal. But a great many things that are legal are not prudent or wise – and building in Arab sections of Jerusalem in the current political climate is one of those things."

Yoffie recommended the moratorium as a means of  easing tensions with the United States sparked last week when Israel announced a major building start in Jerusalem during a visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden aimed at showing U.S.-Israel unity. The announcement also led the Palestinian Authority to pull back from planned renewed peace talks.

"Surely no opportunity to move toward an enduring settlement must be squandered," he said. "I hope that the government of Israel will see the declaration of a temporary moratorium on building in East Jerusalem as a means of seizing the initiative, deepening her ties with America, rallying her allies around the world, and challenging the Palestinians and Arab world to come forward with confidence-building steps of their own."

Among U.S. Jewish Jewish groups, Yoffie and the Reform movement tack toward an aggressive U.S. posture in brokering Israeli-Arab peace, something its leaders have made clear in meetings with the Obama administration. However, Yoffie also has assertively defended Israel from what he sees as unfair attacks in recent months, particularly against calls on Israel to face war crimes charges after last year’s Gaza war.

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