Over 150 American Jewish leaders have penned a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledging their backing for him to push ahead toward a peace deal with the Palestinians.
“Mr. Prime Minister, at this pivotal moment of decision-making, we offer our support and encouragement as you move forward to pursue a lasting agreement that will protect Israel’s security as a homeland for the Jewish people,” reads the letter, coordinated by the dovish Israel Policy Forum and signed by 152 prominent American Jews.
Signatories include lawyer and author Alan Dershowitz, Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Rick Jacobs, former World Bank president Jim Wolfensohn and historian Deborah Lipstadt. The list includes academics, philanthropists, politicians, community leaders, rabbis and business figures.
The document also praised Secretary of State John Kerry’s role in brokering the talks.
“As American advocates for a strong, Jewish and democratic Israel, we have been heartened by Secretary of State John Kerry’s extraordinary resolve to advance this process consistent with America’s unwavering commitment to Israel’s security,” it reads.
Kerry has faced withering criticism from the Israeli right, including cabinet ministers, in the wake of his speech earlier this month at the Munich Security Conference, where he warned that Israel faces an “increasing delegitimization campaign that has been building up. People are very sensitive to it. There are talk of boycotts and other kinds of things.” He also said Israel’s current prosperity and security were “illusory.”
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, Housing Minister Uri Ariel, Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan and other right-wing leaders leveled a series of accusations against Kerry, including that he was anti-Israel and that his warnings of boycotts effectively empowered the boycott campaign. Others, including Netanyahu and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, insisted Kerry had defended Israel and that any disagreement with him must be substantive rather than personal, although Netanyahu also declared he would not be swayed by boycott threats.
The letter also expressed the hope that the Palestinian leadership will be able to make painful concessions on its part for the sake of peace.
“By moving forward at this time, we believe that the Palestinian leadership will be challenged to make important compromises, to end incitement and to demonstrate a genuine preparedness to live in peace alongside the nation-state of the Jewish people.”
Kerry has been toiling over the past several months to formulate and propose a framework deal that both the PA and Israel will accept as a basis for continuing negotiations toward an end-of-the-year target for a final accord. The US diplomat has run into opposition from both sides over issues such as security arrangements and the Palestinian right of return, and has reportedly not obtained backing from US President Barack Obama to impose a “binding” deal on the sides. The Israelis have signaled a willingness to accept the deal with reservations, but grumblings from the PA camp suggest the Palestinian side opposes some elements of the developing framework.
Lazar Berman and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.