Attorney Alan Baker has defended the government-initiated report he co-authored
that calls to authorize West Bank outposts.
In a letter to the Israel
Policy Forum last week, former Foreign Ministry legal adviser Baker said the
so-called Levy report does not close the door to a Palestinian state, and offers
Israelis and Palestinians pragmatic solutions to land dispute
Earlier this month, the New York-based forum sent a letter to
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, urging him to reject the report on the
outposts penned by a three-member legal panel led by former Supreme Court
justice Edmond Levy.
The other two panel members were Baker and former
Tel Aviv District Court deputy president Tehiya Shapira.
More than 40 US
Jewish leaders signed the letter, stating they were “deeply concerned” by the
report, which said that under international law Israel did not occupy the West
Bank and had a legal right to build settlements there.
The US Jewish
leaders said they were concerned that government approval of the report would
“place the two-state solution, and the prestige of Israel as a democratic member
of the international community, in peril.”
The Palestinians say
settlement construction is illegal under international law, harms the contiguity
of their future state and is a stumbling block to peace. They have insisted they
will not hold formal negotiations with Israel until it halts settlement
In his letter to the Israel Policy Forum, Baker said he did not
believe the US Jewish leaders had read his report. Had they done so, he said,
they would not have warned that authorization of the document imperiled a
The report’s affirmation of Israel’s legal and
historic rights to the West Bank “is not different from Israel’s policy
statements over the years, including speeches by all of Israel’s leaders and
ambassadors in the UN, as well as in official policy documents issued over the
years by Israel’s Foreign Ministry,” Baker wrote.
There is nothing in the
report that imperils the two-state solution, he said, and added, “The opposite
is in fact the case.”
The report stated that despite Israel’s legal and
historic claim to sovereignty over the area, consecutive Israeli governments
have preferred to negotiate with the Palestinians to find a solution to
sovereignty issues in the West Bank.
“This is completely compatible with
the address by Prime Minister Netanyahu to the US Congress last May,” Baker
Lastly, he noted that the document, released earlier this month,
offers pragmatic solutions to issues of outpost authorization and land disputes
with Palestinians. It suggests the creation of a civilian court to adjudicate
“The report stresses the need to ensure that genuine
land-ownership rights of the local Palestinian population are respected by all
related authorities and individuals,” Baker said.
“Without in any way
doubting the deep commitment of all the signatories to Israel’s well-being as a
Jewish and democratic state, it is to be regretted that they have permitted
themselves to be drawn so hastily into criticizing the Levy report, without
justification,” Baker said.
The Ministerial Committee on Settlements has
yet to discuss or approve the document.
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein
is expected to issue an opinion on the report, which will be handed to the prime