July 22, 2009 - 12:00am

A group of Israeli rabbis, headed by Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, have sent a letter to U.S. rabbis and the President's Conference, urging them to exert political leverage in Israel's favor, Israel Radio reported on Wednesday.

"The American government pressures Israel to prevent Jews from building houses in extensive areas in the Land of Israel, which is very unfortunate," the rabbis wrote. "We ask you to make use of your political power to lobby the American authorities to reconsider this policy in the spirit of truly democratic justice, and give weight to halakhic considerations that are binding for the Jews."

Israel's previously cordial relations with the U.S. have been damaged by the Israeli government's insistence, in the face of U.S. opposition, that it can continue building within existing settlements.

The signatories stressed that although it is an unusual declaration coming from religious figures, they have no intention to make a political statement.

"We would like to express our deepest regret, not from a political point of view, but rather a religious one, as the Torah stipulates the settlement and population of Eretz Israel," they said.

"While a person is allowed to reside wherever he wishes, Jews will not be allowed to reside in the territory of the future state," the rabbis also wrote, referring to the future of the settlement once a Palestinian state is established.


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