After nearly six months of investigations, three legal experts known
colloquially as “the outpost committee” – a government-appointed advisory body –
submitted some clear-cut conclusions.
For instance, the trio – former
Supreme Court justice Edmond Levy, former Foreign Ministry legal adviser Alan
Baker and former deputy president of the Tel Aviv District Court Tehiya Shapira
– found that the hundreds of thousands of patriotic, productive Israeli citizens
living in Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights are not criminals, as many of
Israel’s adversaries – and allies – would argue.
They also found that the
45-year-old settlement project, which has reunited the Jewish people to land
resonating with Jewish history dating back thousands of years, cannot in any way
be construed as an international crime.
The trio's argument, backed
up by their intimate knowledge of international law, is based on a few simple
First, the British Mandate, which came into effect in September
1922 after being ratified by the League of Nations, called for the creation of
“a national home for the Jewish people” in the territory west of the Jordan
River, including Judea and Samaria.
Second, the 1947 UN Partition Plan
for Palestine never replaced the British Mandate as intended. It was accepted by
the Jewish community in Palestine represented by the Jewish Agency, but was
rejected by both the Palestinian Arab Higher Committee and by the states
belonging to the Arab League.
Third, in the wake of Israel’s War of
Independence, when first local Palestinian militias and later the combined
armies of Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon tried but failed to snuff out
the Jewish state. Jordan seized control of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and
parts of Jerusalem, but its sovereignty over these areas was never recognized by
the international community.
Fourth, after the Six Day War, when once
again the combined armies of Egypt, Syria and Jordan, with the help of numerous
other countries and organizations – including the PLO – tried and failed to wipe
Israel off the map, Israel found itself in control of Judea, Samaria and Gaza,
along with the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights.
In 1988, Jordan
ceded its claims to the West Bank to the PLO. But these so-called claims were
less substantial than Israel’s for a number of reasons. First, the British
Mandate never recognized Jordan’s right to the land west of the Jordan
Also, Jordan seized the territory in an aggressive offensive
against the fledgling Jewish state. And the newly created Jordanian state –
essentially a British construction – had absolutely no historical ties to Judea
and Samaria, while for Jews, it is the cradle of Jewish civilization and
statehood from the biblical era.
Far from “occupied,” the status of Judea
and Samaria – if one is being generous with regard to Palestinian demands – can
at best be described as sui generis
The territory enjoys a unique status
in international law as land that has never been unequivocally set aside for a
specific people by the international community.
Even UN Resolution 242,
which introduced the “land-for-peace” formula, calls on Israel to withdraw from
“territories” in exchange for peace with its neighbors, but not all
It was clear to the international community immediately
after the Six Day War that Israel would retain an undetermined portion of Judea,
Samaria and Gaza. (Israel has since magnanimously ceded the Gaza Strip to the
Palestinians.) Unfortunately, the outpost committee’s conclusions are not so
obvious to everyone. Just three months ago, for instance, UN Secretary-General
Ban Ki-moon, in response to moves by Israel to legalize outposts, declared that
all settlement activity was “illegal.” Ban’s position reflected the general
perception of most of the international community and certain segments of the
Unsurprisingly, Levy, Baker and Shapira might not succeed
in convincing Israel’s detractors that settlements are legal and the men, women
and children who populate them are law-abiding citizens by any
But at least the plain truth has now been reiterated – for the
record. And it should be officially recognized as such by the government.