Itamar settlement hilltop 311 R.
(photo credit: Abed Omar Qusini / Reuters)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has asked Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein
to provide an opinion by the end of the week on the Levy Report, which states
that West Bank settlements are legal under international law.
made his request on Sunday at the weekly meeting of Likud ministers, according
to an official in attendance.
The government-commissioned report, headed
by former Supreme Court justice Edmund Levy, which also calls for the
authorization of West Bank outposts when possible, was submitted to Netanyahu in
At the time Netanyahu said he would bring the recommendations to
the Ministerial Committee on Settlement Affairs for debate, but he never made
good on that pledge, despite pressure to do so from his party’s right-wing
flank. Ahead of the Likud primary on November 25 and the national election on
January 22, they have renewed their pressure on the prime minister to approve
the report either through the committee or the cabinet.
last week that Netanyahu planned to deal with it on Sunday, but that Weinstein
acted to prevent that in light of the upcoming elections.
the Attorney-General’s Office have been quiet on the topic.
Weinstein wrote a memo to all the ministries urging them not to make major
policy decisions now that the country is heading to elections and the government
is a transitional one.
On Sunday, however, politicians at Likud’s weekly
ministerial meeting urged the prime minister to act on the report
“Netanyahu’s government must act immediately to adopt the report by
justice Edmund Levy,” Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat said at the
meeting. Weinstein has no legal reason by which to prevent the cabinet from
adopting the Levy Report, she said.
“We are not a transitional
government, we are a sitting government,” Livnat said. “We have the full legal
and political authority to adopt the report.”
She recalled that after
elections were announced in 2008, she turned to then-attorney-general Menahem
Mazuz and asked him to halt the negotiations that then-prime minister Ehud Olmert
was conducting with Syria, on the grounds that he now led a transitional
Mazuz responded with a clear opinion that a transitional
government has the full authority to make decisions, according to a 2001
decision by the High Court of Justice, Livnat said.
“It can’t be that
there is one judgment for a left-wing government and another one for a
right-wing one,” she said.
“Adopting the Levy Report is a historically
just act that that will right the wrongs caused to the Jewish settlements in
Judea and Samaria by the Sasson Report,” she said, referencing a 2005 government
report by attorney Tali Sasson detailing illegal government funding of
unauthorized West Bank outposts.
Transportation Minister Israel Katz also
urged Netanyahu to approve the Levy Report at next Sunday’s cabinet
The continued delays are unacceptable, he said, urging the prime
minister to put it on the agenda. There is time for Weinstein to issue an
opinion after the cabinet deals with it, Katz added, according to his
But not all government officials support the
Last week Defense Minister Ehud Barak said he believed that its
authors erred in their legal opinion. He argued that its passage would harm the
peace process and further isolate Israel in the international
Approval of the document would reassure right-wing voters in
advance of the elections that the Likud Party truly supports Jewish communities
in Judea and Samaria. But it would also likely antagonize the international
community and the Palestinians, who believe that Israel is occupying that
There is speculation that if Netanyahu were to bring the
document to the cabinet or the Ministerial Committee on Settlement Affairs now,
he would only present a modified version, absent some of elements that the
international community would find most controversial.
Aside from its
broad legal opinion on the status of settlements under international law, the
report also argues that land disputes in the West Bank should be determined by a
separate judicial system created specifically to handle those cases. This would
include instances in which Israelis and Palestinians claim ownership of the same
tract of land.
Meretz party chairwoman Zehava Gal-On weighed in on the
issue with a statement to the media. She said she believed Weinstein opposed the
report because its conclusions run counter to international law.
ministers fear the righ-twing elements in their party such as activist Moshe
Feiglin more than they do Weinstein, she added. The attorney-general has a duty
to warn the government if it is about to err legally, she said.
decision by the attorney-general obligates the whole government,” Gal-On said.
“Its ministers can not declare war on the rule of law because of personal
considerations related to the primaries.”