(photo credit: NOAM MOSKOVICH)
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked formed a committee on Tuesday to “address the legal status of West Bank lands” – a subtext for legalizing outposts currently considered illegal.
In her announcement, the justice minister noted a provision in the coalition agreement between her Bayit Yehudi party and the Likud according to which such a committee would be quickly established and would make fast-track recommendations in a mere 60 days. Often state committees dealing with such controversial and high-profile issues take a year or more to consider an issue and their conclusions are swept under the rug.
The committee will be led by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s cabinet secretary, Avichai Mandelblit, and include Agriculture Ministry director-general Shlomo Ben-Eliyahu, Defense Ministry Legal Adviser Ahaz Ben-Ari and attorney Hagai Vinitzki.
Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights, which opposes Jewish settlements and outposts in Judea and Samaria and regularly litigates on behalf of Palestinians on such issues, accused Shaked of “trying to implement the Levy Report entering through a back door.”
The NGO continued that Shaked sought to do this, “without the government officially adopting” the Levy Report and “even though senior jurists in Israel and globally as well as decisions of the Supreme Court reject “the Levy Report’s “legal interpretations and conclusions.”
“Even 100 committees will not succeed in fixing the contradiction of an after-the-fact legalization of outposts and neighborhoods which were established amidst continuing violations” of the rule of law, Yesh Din said.
It accused the government of trying to illegally grab Palestinian land to expand the Jewish settlement enterprise.
The government-sponsored 2012 Levy Report, named after the late Supreme Court justice Edmond Levy, stated that West Bank Jewish settlements were legal under international law and proposed legalizing outposts that were built on state land with at least unofficial government support.
The report was an attempt to override the 2005 official government report of former top State Attorney’s Office prosecutor Talia Sasson, which had concluded that many of the outposts were illegal.
Despite the Levy Report’s status as an official government document, it was never adopted and until Shaked’s announcement was viewed as having been passed over by Netanyahu due to heavy criticism of the report globally.
Shaked said that “the residents of Judea and Samaria should be free of the constant threat and fear regarding” the legality of their homes and whether the state may evict them.
She emphasized that there is legal disagreement about which West Bank land qualifies as “private land, what kinds of evidence should be required to prove that an area is under private ownership,” issues she said should be resolved so that people living in disputed areas can have certainty about their status.
Where outposts are built on private Palestinian land, the state and the Supreme Court have sometimes evicted the residents forcibly.