PM to decide on Levy report with settlement c'tee

Report on legal status of unauthorized West Bank Jewish building says Israel is not an occupying power in the territories.

July 9, 2012 17:28
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at cabinet

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at cabinet meeting 370 . (photo credit: Pool / Flash 90)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Monday that he would discuss and decide upon the findings of the Edmond Levy Report on West Bank settlements with the Ministerial Committee on Settlements.

"This report addresses the question of the legality and legitimacy of the settlements in Judea and Sumaria on the basis of facts and claims that must be seriously examined," Netanyahu said, praising the committee for its "serious" work.

The report found that Israeli settlement in the West Bank is legal under international law and recommended that the government avoid demolishing illegal outposts.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said on Monday that he welcomes the report on West Bank settlements, and hopes the cabinet approves it in next week’s meeting, adding that “it’s not perfect, but it’s an important step.”

Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan called for Netanyahu to call the Ministerial Committee on Settlements to discuss the report.

“I will work to ensure the government adopts the report’s conclusion and give a clear future and stability for tens of thousands of families after dozens of years,” Erdan said. “Finally, legal and historic justice has been done, following the twister political stances based on the Meretz activist Talia Sasson’s report.”

Erdan added that he will demand that the Attorney-General’s Office’s responses to legal issues involving settlements be based on the Edmond Levy Report.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai praised the report, saying “the time has come to fix the injustice of the Talia Sasson Report and say openly that settlements in Judea and Samaria do not contradict the law, and complement the spirit of Zionism and Judaism.”

Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz called on Netanyahu to immediately convene the Ministerial Committee on Settlements to adopt the report, which “proves the Sasson report was political from the start to the end.”

The Attorney-General’s offices should view the Levy Report as a guide and not veer from it, Herschkowitz added.

“As a resident of a settlement in Judea and Samaria and the public diplomacy minister who fights to express the natural right to settle [there] and not apologize for it, I welcome the committee’s findings,” Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein said. “However, the real test is the report’s adoption.”

National Union MKs raved about the report, with MK Uri Ariel saying it is one of the “most worthy and just reports written.” MK Arieh Eldad said the report “smashes into pieces the mantra of ‘occupation’ as far as international law is concerned” and called for an end to the “Muslim occupation of the Land of Israel that began 1300 years ago.”

Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On slammed the report, saying that the committee was formed only to “justify the vermin of illegal outposts after the High Court and the Attorney-General were not good enough for Netanyahu.”

“Efforts to create a virtual reality will not help Netanyahu. Settlements are not legal, and neither are outposts,” Gal-On said.

Former Kadima leader Tzipi Livni said that the future of settlements is a diplomatic matter, not a legal one, and should be based on the possibility of a future peace agreement.

“It is possible and necessary to use the Levy Report for matters of international law, while considering the current reality and continue negotiations on settlement blocs,” Livni stated.

Peace Now director-general Yariv Oppenheimer on Monday slammed the composition, findings and recommendations of the committee. "No jurist in the world would refer to this political manifesto as a serious report," Channel 10 reported.

The committee, Oppenheimer said, was created by the Israeli Right, who made efforts to affect the selection of its members.

"The conclusion that there is no occupation proves that the committee members are living in continuous denial," he added.

Yesh Din attorney Michael Sfard also slammed the report, saying the Levy committee was "born in sin."  

Sfard said that the committee was founded in order to authorize crime and that it fully fulfilled its task. "It is not a legal report but an ideological report that ignores basic principles of the rule of law," said Sfard.

"It seems as though the committee members fell down the rabbit hole, and their report was written in Wonderland where the law of the absurd rules - there is no occupation, no illegal outposts, and seemingly no Palestinian state. It must be said in the language of Alice [in Wonderland]: This is the most stupid tea party I've seen in my life."

Responses to the report, however, were not entirely negative. Yesha settlement council chairman Dani Dayan praised its findings and called for the implementation of its recommendations.

"It is clear that deep, basic and serious legal work was done," Dayan told Army Radio. "Compared to the Talia Sasson report, this time we're talking about impartial, first rate jurists."

The report's findings should be deeply examined and a plan for implementing its recommendations should be presented, Dayan continued.

The report, while recommending the legalization of illegal outposts, was critical of government policies that allowed their establishment.

“We wish to stress that the picture that has been displayed before us regarding Israeli settlement activity in Judea and Samaria does not befit the behavior of a state that prides itself on, and is committed to, the rule of law,” said the report, which was authored by three legal experts.

MK Danny Danon (Likud) also welcomed the report, calling it "a gift for communities in Judea and Samaria." He urged Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to act upon the report and to encourage more communities to develop in the West Bank.

"The report will remove any leftist radicalism from previous court ruling on the outposts and bury once and for all the alarming report previously submitted by attorney Talia Sasson," said Danon.

The experts are former Supreme Court justice Edmund Levy, former Foreign Ministry legal adviser Alan Baker and former deputy president of the Tel Aviv District Court Tchia Shapira.

In late January, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu appointed the trio – nicknamed the “outpost committee” – to investigate the legal status of unauthorized West Bank Jewish building.

On Sunday, the 89-page document they penned was given to members of the Ministerial Committee on Settlements.

Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.

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