PM backs Levy c'tee following leaked Shalom tape

Comments come after Shalom taped saying c'tee members selected to examine settlements because of their backgrounds.

Jordan valley settlement 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Jordan valley settlement 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Thursday backed the integrity of the three members of the Edmond Levy Committee on the settlements after Vice Premier Silvan Shalom implied they were selected because of their political leanings.
“These were professional people of the highest caliber who did their work in an exemplary manner,” Netanyahu said of former Supreme Court justice Levy, former Foreign Ministry legal adviser and ambassador to Canada Alan Baker, and former deputy president of the Tel Aviv District Court Tchiya Shapiro. “The members of the committee were appointed in accordance with all of the necessary approvals, including those of Justice Minister Prof. Yaakov Neeman and Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein.”
Netanyahu’s comments came after the disclosure Monday of a private meeting last month in Neveh Tzuf in Samaria, in which Shalom was unknowingly taped and indicated the three were chosen because of their backgrounds.
The committee concluded that the settlements were legal under international law, and recommended that the government approve unauthorized settlement outposts.
“Did the prime minister not know when he appointed Edmond Levy, who is Edmond Levy?” he said. “So I will tell you who is Edmond Levy. Edmond Levy was the deputy mayor of Ramle from the Likud. He was a Likud man.”
Shalom said Netanyahu was not unaware of whom he was appointing when he tapped Levy to head the committee.
He also implied the same was true of the other two members of the panel, saying that Baker was the legal adviser when he himself was the foreign minister, and that Shapiro was the daughter of former chief rabbi Shlomo Goren. “Did they not know who is the daughter of Rabbi Goren? Clearly this trio was not supposed to come up with Talia Sasson’s report,” he said.
Sasson, a former state prosecutor, wrote a report at the behest of then-prime minister Ariel Sharon in 2005 that found that the government had been funneling funds to illegal settlement outposts, some of which were built on Palestinian land.
Baker said Tuesday in an Israel Radio interview that he had never spoken of his political affiliations. “Even my wife doesn’t know whom I vote for,” he said.
He add that while Levy was a Likudnik 40 years ago, “he is an extremely esteemed jurist and no one can cast doubt on his integrity.”
Shalom’s office put out a statement saying he did not verbalize anything that was not available on any Internet search engine. He also said there was no implication in his words that the committee was not objective.
Labor MK Eitan Cabel responded that Netanyahu was trying to deceive the public through “political machinations.”