Mr. Peter. A. Joseph, Chairman, Israel Policy Forum Mr. David A. Halperin, Executive Director, Israel Policy Forum Dear Mr. Joseph and Mr. Halperin,
Permit me to introduce myself. I am Ambassador Alan Baker, a member of the Edmond Levy Commission established to examine the status of building in Judea and Samaria and to make recommendations to the government on this and related issues.
As you may know, I am the former ambassador of Israel to Canada and former legal adviser to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In the latter capacity, since the early ‘90s I have served as a member in the Israeli delegations to the peace process negotiations with Israel’s neighbors, including the negotiation and drafting of the various agreements between Israel and the PLO.
I read with considerable dismay the letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu, dated July 13, 2012, sponsored by IPF and signed by 41 prominent personalities in the U.S. Jewish community, urging him to reject the Levy Commission’s findings and recommendations.
Rather than responding to each individual signatory directly, I am forwarding this response to you both, as chairman and executive director respectively of IPF, in the hope you will ensure that it is circulated among all the other signatories to the letter.
From the content and tenor of the letter, I suspect the signatories are basing themselves on selective media reports and other sources that in fact bear no relation whatsoever to the actual content of the Levy Commission report itself. This is perhaps understandable because, to the best of my knowledge, no English language version of the report exists (apart from a translation by me of the brief summary of the basic conclusion and recommendations).
Accordingly one may presume that none of the signatories have actually read the content of the report. In this context, one may wonder on what basis 41 prominent, important and responsible leaders of the U.S. Jewish community could seriously proffer criticism of a report that they have not read and presume to advise the prime minister of Israel to reject it.
Permit me, with respect, to presume that had the signatories read the report, they would not find any reason to claim, as stated in the letter, that the report “will place the two-state solution, and the prestige of Israel as a democratic member of the international community, in peril.”
Similarly, the description of the report as “legal maneuverings” and as something that will “add fuel to those who seek to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist,” other than insulting to myself and the other members of the commission in light of our respective contributions to the welfare and prestige of Israel, is totally devoid of any basis.
The central and reasoned conclusion of the report, reaffirming the legal and historic rights and claims of Israel with regard to the area and the nature of Israel’s presence therein, is no different from Israel’s policy statements over the years, including speeches by all of Israel’s leaders and ambassadors in the United Nations, as well as in official policy documents issued over the years by Israel’s Foreign Ministry.
There is nothing in the report that could in any way be interpreted as placing the “two-state solution” in peril. The opposite is in fact the case. The report reiterates, in paragraph 9, that despite Israel’s well-based and solid legal and historical claims to sovereignty over the area and the right of Israelis to settle therein in accordance with the requisite legal norms and requirements, as set out in the body of the report, consecutive Israeli governments have chosen to opt and continue to opt in favor of conducting bone fide and pragmatic negotiations with the representatives of the Palestinian people and the Arab states, with a view to determine the fate of the area.
This is completely compatible with the address by Prime Minister Netanyahu to the U.S. Congress last May, quoted in your letter.
The main body of the Levy Report deals with practical ways of resolving the outstanding issues concerning planning, zoning and building in the area, in light of the confusing situation in this field that has developed over the last few years. The report proffers recommendations for adjudicating land-ownership disputes between Palestinian and Israeli claimants – all with a view to ensuring just, proper and fair administration.
The report stresses the need to ensure that genuine land-ownership rights of the local Palestinian population are respected by all related authorities and individuals. It refers to the need for protection of parks and nature reserves, as well as ensuring that all residents of the area – Palestinians and Israelis – are dealt with by the authorities in a fair and proper manner in accordance with all accepted humanitarian norms and principles of justice and due process.
In light of the above, it is difficult to understand the reasoning, if any exists, behind the fears expressed by the signatories that the report will add fuel to those who seek to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist.
With great respect, it is surely the publication of incorrect and ill-advised assumptions regarding the report, including those echoed in the above-noted letter, that adds the fuel to those who seek to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist.
Without in any way doubting the deep commitment of all the signatories to Israel’s well-being as a Jewish and democratic state, it is to be regretted that they have permitted themselves to be drawn so hastily into criticizing the Levy Report, without justification.
Needless to say I place myself at the disposal of IPF and all the signatories to the letter, in order to assist those interested in understanding the content of the Levy Commission Report.
I am copying this letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Alan Baker is a veteran Israeli diplomat, ambassador and negotiator.
About the Author: Alan Baker is a veteran Israeli diplomat, ambassador and negotiator.
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