Daniel Gordis said "no" to the Levy Report in signing on to the far-left "Open Letter" (and the full text is below) released this week which has been fisked a bit here. At Haaretz, rather than his usual Jerusalem Post base, he defends his co-joining the left-of-center American Jews who decided to become very publicly upset at the publication of the Levy Report on Israel's rights in, and to, Judea and Samaria. He published this piece, Choose hope: Don't adopt the Levy report.
In short, he thinks that
To state publicly that what we have in Judea and Samaria is not an occupation might be a legally justifiable claim. But it would also signal that it is time to give up even thinking about how a different reality in the Middle East might be achieved. That, we must not do.
Might be? And why is that "different reality" abhorrent enough for Gordis to join the left-of-center crowd, lend them his name, and that of the Shalem Center? Is the issue that important for him to decide to run with this group of Israeli critics?
Well, we need to review his thinking and so here are some extracts from his defense:-
The letter did not argue that Justice Levy’s legal argument was legally incorrect; it also took no stand on settlement issue writ large...The letter simply asserts that if the Prime Minister adopts the Levy Commission report, he will do Israel serious damage.
And how much damage does the letter cause, and I am not arguing that Gordis, et al., do not have the legal right to publish their thinking, but need it have been such a public shaming? Here's how AP had it in an analysis:
Jewish settlements are at the heart of a 3-year-old deadlock in Mideast peace efforts.
Is that the portrayal that Gordis is comforable with? He cannot offset that? The "heart"? Not the 90-year old Arab total rejection of Jewish nationalism and a Jewish presence anywhere inEretz-Yisrael?
The letter caused no damage or is it only the damage Netanyahu could possibly cause that is a problem?
He then outlines the damage to Pals. are doing to themselves:
Sadly, Israel has no partner with which to make peace. Today’s Palestinian leadership insists on the refugees’ right of return, something Israel cannot permit if it is to remain a Jewish State. The Palestinians have also rejected Netanyahu’s demand that they recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State, something that Israel must insist on if precluding the refugees’ return is to be defensible. Neither of those will change anytime soon.
He skips over a bit of terror, some incitement, the corrupt regime that is the Palestinian Authority vis-a-vis its own people and other aspects of a horrific reality but that is ignored. Given, though, those two problematic demands, what is Israel to do?
...A wise Israeli leadership would do everything in its power to communicate to the world that beyond those two existential issues [Israel as a Jewish state and the no return of refugees - YM], which are not negotiable, Israel will discuss virtually anything. There are matters on which Israel will compromise, and others on which it will not...
What "anything" is "virtual"? What issues can be compromised?
True Arab democracy?
IDF presence, long- or short-term on the Jordan River?
Educational curriculum change?
What about Rabin's formula? From his October 5,1995 Knesset speech, where he summarized his
...vision of the permanent solution. It will include united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty, the country's security border will be on the River Jordan, there will be no return to the 4 June 1967 lines and new blocs of settlements will be built in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip. He spoke of the coming elections to the Palestinian Council, the IDF's re-deployment and the creation of three zones in the territories.
Or that isn't left or liberal enough for Gordis' fellow-signers?
Israel should not establish itself on principles of law?
...While the Levy Commission insisted that its findings were legal and not political, that distinction would be utterly lost on the international community.
Really? And here we all thought that the most incriminating charge against Israel's presence beyond the Green Line, what justifies the BDS movement, was the illegality of it all. That charge the world does understand but Israel proving that its presence in not illegal is incomprehensible? "Illegality" subverts Israel's legitimacy but to disprove that is somehow no good?
Gordis then takes a large step forward which all Israel's governments have avoided for 45 years and more and asserts that now it will lose its ability to maintain a status quo which serves its policies best of all:
Observers everywhere would read the adoption of the Levy report as tantamount to annexing the West Bank.
I hope. But I don't think so. And I am pretty sure Gordis knows that Netanyahu will not do that either. Not because he doesn't want it but that in everything else he has done in his second term as Prime Minister has been to cover Israel with the US for the Iranian threat. Gordis knows that that is what Bibi has been doing and so there was no need for him to publicly shame him and Israel in such a manner.
Moreover, he thinks profound damage will be caused:
It would be read as putting the Palestinians on notice that Israel plans never to evacuate any settlements, and that hopes for a Palestinian state are dead.
Wait. With peace, and coexistence, being the goal to be achieved with the Arabs resident in the areas of the former Mandate that was established to "reconstitute" the Jewish National Home not under Israel's sovereignty, why should Jews remove themselves from where they live?
Will Arabs be removed from Nazereth, Rahat, Um El-Fahm? Are Jews to be treated to a very different - and discriminatory and even immoral - reality?
He is also concerned:
...Israelis [will think] their political leadership believes that the status quo is actually the ideal and that young people should give up even dreaming that the conflict might, one day, be behind us. Can we imagine ourselves in an interminable conflict without numbing our moral sensibilities?
Well, better a status quo that provides security rather than a jump off the cliff is what most Israelis prefer.
He then waxes emotional:
Zionism at its best is aspirational..Zionism struggles to survive...It hopes for a richer and more sophisticated conversation about how a state can be Jewish. It should aspire to greater social equality. And it should yearn for a day when its sons and daughters will not have to go to war...
Zionism also strives for the time when Jews in the Diaspora, more properly, the Galut/Exile, will stop seeing themselves as equal to the Jewish community in Israel. Yes, we are partners, yes we share the same visionary aspirations, the same wish for a thriving Jewish culture. But Jews abroad need know that there is a line that doesn't always have to be crossed. To be Jewish, nowadays, seems, especially in the camp Gordis chose to be aligned with, is to show just how much you can criticize Israel.
"I criticize Israel, thereby I am" is the now catchword, and so Gordis psoits that
To state publicly now that what we have in Judea and Samaria is not an occupation might be a legally justifiable claim. But it would also signal that it is time to give up even thinking about how a different reality in the Middle East might be achieved. That, we must not do.
Rabbi Dr. Gordis, Daniel, you erred in your own aspirational exuberance. You erred in the 'friends' you chose.
As you wrote: "Not for naught is Israel’s anthem called “The Hope”, and yes, so we, too, have hope - for you.
As it is written in Psalms, in order to achieve peace, one must first distance oneself from evil. One must stop speaking guile and do good.
P.S. From Jonathan Tobin:
But what Gordis and the other 40 signers of the IPF letter miss is that by consciously downplaying its legal rights in the dispute, Israel has unwittingly strengthened the hand of those who oppose its existence, be it inside or outside the green line. By ceasing to speak of the justice of Israel’s case, the so-called “peace camp” played into the hands of those who think Jews have no more right to live in Tel Aviv than in Jerusalem or the most remote hilltop West Bank settlement...The assertion of Jewish rights is not incompatible with peace talks or even the surrender of much of the West Bank as part of a genuine peace accord. It is hard to imagine such talks succeeding under any circumstances in the absence of a sea change in the political culture of the Palestinians that would enable them to live with a Jewish state. But they have no hope of succeeding so long as the Palestinians think Israel can be made to give up all of the land without peace. Nor will the international community ever support an Israel they believe has “stolen” Palestinian land.
A generation of abdication of Jewish rights to the West Bank has not softened the hearts of the world or the Palestinians. If Israel is ever to negotiate a peace that will bring security, it must start by saying that it comes to the table not as a thief but as a party whose legal rights must be respected.
July 13, 2012
The Honorable Benjamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister of the State of Israel
Prime Minister of the State of Israel
Dear Mr. Prime Minister:
As strong advocates for Israel’s security and well-being as a Jewish and democratic state, we are deeply concerned about the recent findings of the government commission led by Supreme Court Jurist (Ret.) Edmund Levy. We fear that if approved, this report will place the two-state solution, and the prestige of Israel as a democratic member of the international community, in peril.
As you boldly stated in your address to the United States Congress last May, “I recognize that in a genuine peace, we’ll be required to give up parts of the ancestral Jewish homeland.” As you said clearly, doing so is not easy. While the Jewish people indeed share a biblical connection to the lands of Judea and Samaria, you told Congress, “there is another truth: The Palestinians share this small land with us. We seek a peace in which they’ll be neither Israel’s subjects nor its citizens. They should enjoy a national life of dignity as a free, viable and independent people living in their own state.”
Securing Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state requires diplomatic and political leadership, not legal maneuverings. We recognize and regret that the Palestinian Authority has abdicated leadership by not returning to the negotiating table. 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. At this moment, it is more critical than ever that Israel strengthen its claim in the international community that it is committed to a two-state vision, which is, in turn, central to Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state.
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.
Karen R. Adler
Jack C. Bendheim
Howard M. Bernstein
Charles R. Bronfman
Steven M. Cohen
Rabbi Marion Lev Cohen
Thomas A. Dine
Rabbi David Ellenson
E. Robert Goodkind
Stanley P. Gold
Rabbi Daniel Gordis
David A. Halperin
Harold R. Handler
Alan S. Jaffe
Peter A. Joseph
Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky
Peter S. Kolevzon
Steven C. Koppel
Geoffrey H. Lewis
Rabbi J. Rolando Matalon
Rabbi Jennie Rosenn
Rabbi David Saperstein
Jeffrey R. Solomon
Joel D. Tauber
Melvyn I. Weiss
Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie
Michael D. Young
An open letter to Gordis.
Baker now responds.
P.P.S. Maurice Ostroff's reply.