He writes, “I agree with you that we have lately been witnessing very disturbing increase in manifestations of political violence, both verbal and physical … in Israeli society.”
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WASHINGTON, D.C., Dec. 5, 2008 – In the days before Rosh Hashanah, Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert urging him to “strive to achieve new successes in negotiations, to continue to protect innocent lives, and to uphold the rule of law and democracy” as the new year began. (The original letter is here.)
In a response letter received this week, Prime Minister Olmert addressed Rabbi Saperstein’s concerns and reiterated the Israeli government’s commitment to peace.
Responding to Rabbi Saperstein’s concern over acts of terrorism targeting both Israelis and Palestinians, Olmert wrote, “I agree with you that we have lately been witnessing very disturbing increase in manifestations of political violence, both verbal and physical … in Israeli society.” He went on to say, “I assure you that we take this problem very seriously and that I have instructed the relevant agencies to track down those responsible for these dangerous acts and bring them to justice.”
Prime Minister Olmert also addressed Rabbi Saperstein’s concerns that settlement construction in Israel has nearly doubled since the Annapolis peace conference, when Israel committed to a settlement freeze. “Israel continues to abide by its commitment under the Roadmap to refrain from construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing ones,” he wrote. “However, as we stated before the beginning of the Annapolis process, we will continue to build in the major settlement blocs, which will remain under Israeli sovereignty in any future agreement.”
At the close of the letter, Prime Minister Olmert thanked Rabbi Saperstein for his long-standing support of peace and his staunch moral opposition to violence, closing with, “[I] join you in hoping that dialogue and understanding will prevail both within Israeli society and between Israel and its neighbors.”
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis.