Baker defends Levy report in letter to US Jews

Israel Policy Forum warned last month that Levy Report endangered two-state solution; Baker: "You didn't read the report."

Ulpana outpost near Beit El 370 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Nir Elias)
Ulpana outpost near Beit El 370 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Nir Elias)
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 issues.
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 activity.
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 two-state solution.
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 wrote.
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 such disputes.
“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 minister.

Tags Occupation