Jewish community leaders speak out on E1 construction

December 12, 2012

In light of the Israeli governments’ recent alarming announcement of their intent to construct 3,000 housing units in the E1 zone between East Jerusalem and Maale Adumim, J Street has joined with Rabbis for Human Rights North America and Americans for Peace Now to mobilize rabbis, cantors and rabbinical and cantorial students, to oppose such actions.

Read the letter below:

Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu:

We write as American rabbis and cantors who are deeply committed to the long-term security and viability of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. We have lived in Israel, visited frequently, brought our communities there, and preached and taught about Israel within our synagogues, schools, camps, and other institutions. Many of us have children, parents, siblings, and other relatives and friends living in Israel. Some of us hold Israeli citizenship.

We and our communities have worked hard to build bipartisan support for Israel. We have raised millions of dollars to develop the State of Israel and its civil society. And we have vigorously opposed efforts to delegitimize the Jewish State.

All of us believe that the ultimate safety and security of Israel as a Jewish state will depend on reaching a peace agreement that also allows Palestinians to live safely and securely in their own state.

For these reasons, we are deeply concerned about the recent announcement to advance the construction of settlements in the E1 area of the West Bank, as well as to authorize the building of thousands of new settlement units in East Jerusalem. The current situation in the occupied territories violates Palestinian human rights and undercuts the very values on which Israel was founded – democracy, liberty, justice, and peace.

We fear that building settlements in E1 would be the final blow to a peaceful solution. If Israel builds in E1, it will cut East Jerusalem off from its West Bank surroundings and effectively bifurcate the West Bank. In doing so, E1 will literally represent an obstacle to a two-state solution.

As American rabbis and cantors, we also fear that construction in E1 damages the critical relationship between Israel and the United States. Construction in E1 would violate repeated commitments to the United States, dating back to 1994, not to build settlements in the area.

The Mishna (Pirke Avot 1:12) tells us, “Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving humankind and bringing them closer to the Torah.” The commentary on this saying in Avot d’Rabbi Natan tells us that it is not enough merely to love peace, but that one must pursue it as strenuously as Aaron did.

For the sake of the State of Israel and the Jewish people, we urge you to cease plans to construct new settlements in E1, elsewhere in the West Bank, or in East Jerusalem. We pray that you follow Aaron’s example by returning to the negotiating table as quickly as possible.

We cannot afford to weaken the strong bond between Israel and the United States. Nor can we risk sabotaging our best chance to end the decades-long conflict that has claimed too many Israeli and Palestinian lives.

With prayers for the peace of Jerusalem,