A Divide Over the Settlements in the West Bank

By JULIUS BERMAN & KENNETH J. BIALKIN


 

"Wrong Time for New Settlements" (editorial, July 11) rightly criticizes the Levy commission report, which asserts that Israel is not occupying the West Bank and that all Israeli settlements there are legal. Israel's continued ruling of 2.5 million Palestinians is, as you say, "damaging to Israel's security and regional peace."

 

This report pushes the envelope of legal arguments and in a pointless exercise denies the illegality of settlements. If the report is endorsed, Israel would dig itself into an even deeper hole. Like the proverbial ostrich, it would avoid this reality: Israel cannot remain a secure Jewish democracy without disengaging from the Palestinians. From an Israeli perspective, the two-state solution is imperative and vital.

 

This report would set back that objective, and the ostrich hole could well become the grave of the Zionist enterprise. Instead, Israel should responsibly prepare to relocate and fairly compensate settlers living outside the settlement blocs, and create a reality of two states for two people.

 

GILEAD SHER

Tel Aviv, July 11, 2012

The writer, co-chairman of Blue White Future in Israel, was a peace negotiator and chief of staff to Israel's prime minister from 1999 to 2001. He is a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies.

 

To the Editor:

We write as former chairmen of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in the early 1980s. The subject of Israeli "settlements" in the West Bank was not a new issue even then.

 

It has been a subject of wide, intense discussion in the Jewish community in the United States. It was then, as now, the position of the State Department and administration (Ronald Reagan at the time) that the settlements were an obstacle to peace.

 

To try to establish a policy that would represent the entire Jewish community (to the extent that it can ever be said that any particular policy statement can be regarded as the policy of the overall community), the Conference of Presidents and its members had many discussions on the subject.

At a plenary meeting during that period it was determined that, while there were varying opinions regarding Israel's settlement policies, the consensus was that the settlements were not illegal and were not an obstacle to peace. To our knowledge, that position has never been changed and remains the consensus view of the Jewish community.

 

JULIUS BERMAN

KENNETH J. BIALKIN

New York, July 12, 2012

A version of this letter appeared in print on July 19, 2012, on page A28 of the New York edition with the headline: A Divide Over the Settlements in the West Bank.