WASHINGTON (JTA) — More than 100 U.S. Jewish leaders urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make clear "Israel’s readiness to make painful territorial sacrifices for the sake of peace."
"We believe that this is a compelling moment for you and your new government to respond to President Obama’s call for peace by taking concrete confidence-building steps designed to demonstrate Israel’s commitment to a ‘two-states for two peoples’ solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict," said the letter sent Wednesday and organized by the Israel Policy Forum. "We urge you, in particular, to work closely with Secretary of State John Kerry to devise pragmatic initiatives, consistent with Israel’s security needs, which would represent Israel’s readiness to make painful territorial sacrifices for the sake of peace."
The letter said such leadership "would challenge Palestinian leaders to take similarly constructive steps, including, most importantly, a prompt return to the negotiating table."
Kerry is planning to visit Israel and the Palestinian areas on April 8-9, just two weeks after he accompanied Obama to Israel.
The leaders left out affiliations, speaking only for themselves, but some of those represented were significant for their leadership — including Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism — and for not usually being associated with pressing an Israeli prime minister to advance peace talks.
These leaders include Richard Pearlstone, a former chairman of the board of governors of the Jewish Agency; Susie Gelman, the immediate past president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, who is chairing this year’s Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly in Jerusalem; and Dov Zakheim, a former Pentagon official who was a top adviser to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.
On Thursday five pro-Israel activists affiliated with the Emergency Committee for Israel published a retort.
"We, too, have strong opinions on the peace process – but one thing we never presume to do is instruct our friends in Israel on the level of danger to which they should expose themselves," said the ECI letter to Netanyahu.