JERUSALEM (JTA) — Forty U.S. Jewish leaders in a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu express concerns about the findings of an Israeli government committee that said West Bank settlements are legal.
The letter, initiated and organized by the Israel Policy Forum, was delivered Sunday to the Prime Minister’s Office.
"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," the letter read. "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."
Signatories include philanthropists Charles Bronfman and Lester Crown; Marvin Lender, former national chairman of United Jewish Appeal; Deborah Lipstadt, Dorot professor of modern Jewish history and Holocaust studies at Emory University; Bernard Nussbaum, former White House counsel; Richard Pearlstone, former chairman of The Jewish Agency; and Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
The Levy Committee, which was formed by Netanyahu and headed by former Israeli Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy, said in its 89-page report released last week that “Israel does not meet the criteria of ‘military occupation’ as defined under international law” in the West Bank, and that therefore settlements and West Bank outposts are legal.
The report recommends changing the legal regulations concerning Jewish settlement in the West Bank in the areas of zoning, demolitions and building.
The findings of the committee are subject to the review and approval of Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.
"Securing Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state requires diplomatic and political leadership, not legal maneuverings," the letter from the leaders said. "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."