C'tee to debate legalizing outposts in wake of report

Right wing hails document as "most worthy and just report ever written"; Meretz MK says Netanyahu contradicting both High Court and attorney-general.

Rehalim outpost 370 (photo credit: rechelim.org)
Rehalim outpost 370
(photo credit: rechelim.org)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday praised a new government-initiated report calling for the legalization of West Bank outposts, but stopped short of pledging to transform the unauthorized Jewish communities into new settlements.
“In my opinion, this report is important because it deals with the legalization and the legitimization of the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria on the basis of facts, a variety of facts and arguments that should be seriously considered,” he said.
Netanyahu added that the Ministerial Committee on Settlements would debate and decide the matter. The committee has the full authority to implement the report.
Right-wing politicians immediately hailed the document, which provided a legal argument in support of authorizing illegal Jewish construction in the West Bank on state land. It also called for the creation of a new court to adjudicate land disputes regarding Jewish building on private Palestinian property.
The report, penned by 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 was released publicly on Monday and given to members of the Ministerial Committee on Settlements on Sunday. It has already been dubbed the “Levy Report.”
“The report restores historical justice to thousands of families in Judea and Samaria [that live in outposts] who have been harmed over the years,” said Transportation Minister Israel Katz (Likud).
Left-wing politicians such as MK Zehava Gal-On (Meretz) 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.
The Palestinians have refused to directly negotiate with Israel until it halts West Bank settlement activity and Jewish building in east Jerusalem.
Israel in turn has in the past promised the international community that it will not build new settlements.
The Palestinian Authority dismissed the report. Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said there was no such thing as legal and illegal settlements.
All settlements are illegal under international law, he said. Abu Rudaineh called on Israel to stop settlement activities and restrain settlers if it is interested in reaching peace.
But the report argued that settlement activity was legal under both international law and domestic Israeli law.
Its conclusions flew in the face of a 2005 report by attorney Talia Sasson commissioned by former prime minister Ariel Sharon. Sasson compiled a list of 105 unauthorized outposts built between 1991 and 2005, arguing they had been illegally constructed and should be taken down.
Until the Levy Report, her document was the only substantive Israeli report on the matter – and the Levy Report built on Sasson’s work. It did not re-quantify the number of settlements but rather looked at the legal issues surrounding the problem and made recommendations on how to solve them.
Right-wing politicians who have long pushed for an alternative to Sasson’s document, hailed Levy’s work as a worthy replacement.
“The report proves Sasson’s report was political from the beginning to the end. For Sasson, blossoming communities and entire neighborhoods that were built with state encouragement and support are illegal outposts.
The prosecutor’s office should view the Levy Report as a guidebook and not veer from it,” said Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz (Habayit Hayehudi), who is a member of the Ministerial Committee on Settlements.
Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, who is also a committee member, said “I will work to ensure the government adopts the report’s conclusion and to give a clear future and stability for tens of thousands of families after dozens of years.”
“Finally, legal and historic justice has been done, following the twister political stances based on the Meretz activist Talia Sasson’s report,” he added.
Erdan said he would demand that the response of the Attorney-General’s Office to legal issues involving settlements be based on the Levy Report. The attorney-general has yet to comment on the matter.
Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein, who is also a committee member, said he welcomed the report as “a resident of a settlement in Judea and Samaria, and [as] the public diplomacy minister who fights to express the natural right to settle [there] and not apologize for it. However, the real test is the report’s adoption.”
Two other committee members of the 11-member panel, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) and Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas), expressed their support for the implementation of the report.
National Union MKs raved about the document, 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 1,300 years ago.”
MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) on Monday drafted a bill based on the Levy Report, which calls for a judicial tribunal on land ownership issues and applying construction and planning laws to the West Bank.
Hotovely has yet to submit the legislation, and is seeking support from right-wing parties for her bill.
Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.

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