JERUSALEM (JTA) — More than 700 letters from American rabbis and rabbinical students expressing concerns about settlement expansion were delivered to the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Some 720 rabbis and cantors, along with rabbinical and cantorial students, signed the letter online in response to the Israeli government’s advancement of construction plans in the controversial E-1 corridor between Maale Adumim in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
The letter is an undertaking organized jointly by Rabbis for Human Rights-North America, J Street and Americans for Peace Now.
"All of us believe that the ultimate safety and security of Israel as a Jewish state will depend on reaching a peace agreement that also allows Palestinians to live safely and securely in their own state," the writers said in letters delivered Monday morning. "We fear that building settlements in E1 would be the final blow to a peaceful solution."
They wrote of their fear that construction in E-1 would damage "the critical relationship" between Israel and the United States because they say building there violates repeated commitments to the United States, dating back to 1994, not to build settlements in the area.
Also, the letter said, "The current situation in the occupied territories violates Palestinian human rights and undercuts the very values on which Israel was founded — democracy, liberty, justice, and peace."
Marisa James, the rabbinical student fellow for Rabbis for Human Rights-North America’s in Israel, arrived at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem with three other rabbinical students to deliver the letters. The group had been denied in advance an appointment with Netanyahu or a member of his staff to hand over the letters personally.
James told JTA that after much discussion, a security guard accepted the letters and said he would make sure they were delivered to the prime minister, turning what could have been controversial into a "lovely experience."
Rabbis from the Rabbis for Human Rights-North America board plan to deliver a copy of the letter with its 720 signatures to the Israeli Embassy in Washington on Tuesday.