Wednesday December 2nd, 2015 12:10AM

US Jewish leaders criticize West Bank report

By The Associated Press
JERUSALEM - Dozens of American Jewish leaders and scholars have made a rare appeal to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, asking him to make sure his government rejects a report that denies Israel is occupying the West Bank.

In a letter to Netanyahu, more than 40 prominent Jewish figures predicted the report authored by former Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy would tarnish Israel's image and jeopardize prospects for peace with the Palestinians.

"We recognize and regret that the Palestinian Authority has abdicated leadership by not returning to the negotiating table," they wrote in the letter, obtained Monday by The Associated Press. "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."

Signatories included businessmen and philanthropists Charles Bronfman and Stanley Gold, the former head of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, Tom Dine, and former Jewish Agency board chairman Richard Pearlstone.

Another signatory, Rabbi Daniel Gordis of the Shalem Institute think tank in Jerusalem, said the question was not whether Levy's legal opinion was correct.

"The question is whether or not it is wise for Israel at this particular juncture to take a stand which would appear to most people to be the equivalent of annexing the West Bank," making Israel appear to be the obstructionist party in peace efforts, Gordis told The Associated Press.

The Levy report, written by a committee with pro-settler sympathies and released last week, reaffirmed Israel's longstanding position that the West Bank is not occupied territory and therefore Israel has the legal right to settle it. That position is at odds with the international consensus that settlements are illegitimate and an obstacle to peace.

Israel captured the West Bank, now home to some 2.5 million Palestinians, from Jordan in 1967. It contends there is no sovereign power there because Jordan's 1948 annexation of the West Bank was not internationally recognized, and the Hashemite kingdom renounced all claims to the territory in 1988. Israel never annexed the territory.

The Palestinians and most of the international community say the West Bank was under Jordanian control when it was captured and is not Israeli territory, meaning it is occupied land.

"We are confident that with your deep understanding of the gravity of this situation, and your unprecedented political strength, you will ensure that adoption of this report does not take place," the letter said.

Netanyahu has said he would bring the report's conclusions to a special forum that would decide whether to adopt them.

If endorsed by the government, the recommendations could give Netanyahu ammunition to support new settlement activity and fend off pressure from a Supreme Court that has ordered the government to take action against unauthorized settlement enclaves.

Jewish settlements are at the heart of a 3-year-old deadlock in Mideast peace efforts.

Palestinians view the West Bank as the heartland of a future state. They see all settlement construction as cementing Israel's hold on the territory and say they will not resume negotiations until the building is frozen, something Israel has refused to do.
© Copyright 2015
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Doctors: Blood clot located in Clinton's head
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton developed a blood clot in her head but did not suffer a stroke or neurological damage, her doctors said Monday. They say they are confident that she will make a full recovery.
3:55PM ( 2 years ago )
Illinois Sen. Kirk to return a year after stroke
Nearly a year after a stroke left him barely able to move the left side of his body, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk is expected to climb the 45 steps to the Senate's front door this week - a walk that's significant not just for Illinois' junior senator, but also for medical researchers and hundreds of thousands of stroke patients.
3:54PM ( 2 years ago )
U.S. News
White House offers governors info on refugees in their states after Syrian migrants uproar
WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is proposing to offer governors individualized reports about refugees in their states.White House chief of staff Denis McDonough says in letters to all 50 governors t...
9:08PM ( 1 day ago )
Standoff at Planned Parenthood ends with suspect's arrest; 3 killed, 9 wounded
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — A gunman who opened fire inside a Planned Parenthood clinic was arrested Friday after engaging in gun battles with authorities during an hourslong standoff that killed t...
1:13AM ( 3 days ago )
White House undergoes Thanksgiving Day lockdown after man draped in American flag jumps fence
WASHINGTON (AP) — A man draped in an American flag climbed over the fence at the White House on Thursday, prompting a lockdown as the first family celebrated Thanksgiving.The man was immediately appre...
10:11PM ( 5 days ago )
Obama grants reprieve to turkeys 'Honest' and 'Abe' during White House ceremony
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama spared two turkeys named for one of the nation's most admired presidents, continuing a White House tradition that provides a refreshing sense of amusement and...
9:18PM ( 6 days ago )
The Latest: UN Security Council strongly condemns 'horrifying' attack in Mali, urges probe
BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — The latest on the attack on a hotel in the Malian capital of Bamako. (All times local):___4:55 a.m.The U.N. Security Council is condemning "the horrifying terrorist attack" at the...
10:58PM ( 1 week ago )