A committee appointed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to investigate the legal status of outposts situated in Yehuda and Shomron has presented its opinion, recommending Israel legalize the outposts. The committee was headed by recently retired Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy.
According to media reports in Israel on Monday, 19 Tammuz 5772 the committee submitted its report to the prime minister last month but he opted to keep the report a secret. The committee, which included retired Tel Aviv District Court Justice Techiya Shapira and Dr. Alan Baker, with the latter being an acknowledged expert in international law, probed the matter for a number of months prior to releasing the report. (Dr. Baker was a member of the team of experts that formulated the Oslo Agreement).
The committee clearly states that according to international law, the Israeli presence in Yehuda and Shomron (West Bank) is not a ‘military occupation’ since no other legal entity has maintained sovereignty since according to international law; explaining that from an international law perspective, Jordan’s presence in those areas prior to the 1967 Six Day War was an occupation, not a legal rule. Interestingly, this has been the contention of pro-settlement officials since the liberation of Yehuda and Shomron in 1967 but the government has always been wary to act in its own interests fearing the response of the international community.
More significant is that according to the legal experts the yishuvim are legal as well since international law does not view Jewish communities in these areas as an illegal entity. (This is not to be confused with the opinion of the international community, which was not probed by the committee, which just addressed international law).
The left-wing response to the Levy Committee report was one of anger and accusations, pointing a finger at the panel, accusing the committee members of being biased.
The committee calls upon the state to regulate and legalize construction and outposts respectively, to implement zoning and take others measure that are normally associated with building communities elsewhere.
As if the report is a page out of a Yesha Council wish list the committee explains that the IDF mustn’t set limits on the size and growth of communities and private construction must be permitted. In today’s reality, the defense minister acts as the supreme governor of all communities in Yehuda and Shomron, having the final say regarding any and all construction and projects connected to community growth and expansion.
Levy did not mince words, expressing harsh criticism of the government’s ambiguous policy vis-à-vis these communities, stating the government rule in these areas is not in line with the policy of the state elsewhere, where maintaining law and order is of paramount importance. The committee calls for minimizing the current complicated process towards facilitating the process to permit Jews to purchase plots of land in these areas, namely Yehuda and Shomron.
Settlement leaders are calling upon the government to act based on the report released by these acknowledged experts while the left wing is seeking to minimize the significance and legitimacy of the report.
In short, the Levy Committee states unequivocally that the terms used including “occupation”, West Bank” and “territories” regarding the Israeli presence and the yishuvim throughout Yehuda and Shomron are simply incorrect from the perspective of international law.
It should be pointed out that the report does not compel the ministerial committee or the government to accept its position or recommendations.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)