Israel to Legalize Settlements' Outposts
Committee headed by Supreme Court Justice (Ret.) Edmond Levy recommends legalizing West Bank settlements
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On June 28, I was surprised when the IDF evicted 15 families from Ulpana to a nearby improvised neighborhood; two families were left behind. Had Netanyahu decided to follow court rulings? Yet, the date itself carried an important hint that Israel didn’t mean to comply with the court ruling. After all, since Netanyahu didn’t plan to bomb the settlers’ houses, there was no time to destroy them by July 1, the date set by the Supreme Court. Accordingly, the government approached the court and asked for time, since the houses needed to be sawed; apparently no faster destruction way was kosher enough. A document accidentally leaked by the Israeli Ministry of Defense to the Hebrew media disclosed that the destruction would end “in November; and in any case not after the beginning of December.” After all, dismantling houses is a delicate and complex task. If sawing them, shards could harm the workers; proper precautions should be taken. The additional time was given by the court.
Even those remotely acquainted with Israeli reality understood that this delay meant Israel wasn’t planning to accept the rulings of its own courts. Yet, it was impossible to understand what Netanyahu was cooking; simply, information was being hidden by the Israeli government. Today, July 9, the Israeli government disclosed the results of the Levi Committee. The report had been submitted in June, but for unclear reasons was kept secret until now.
The Levi Committee had been headed by Supreme Court Justice (Ret.) Edmond Levy, eventually as a result of the 2005 Sasson Report which had ruled 120 settlements and outposts as illegal under Israeli law. Unlawfulness in the West Bank has various layers. The international community considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegal under international law, but the Israeli government disputes this. The international community considers Israeli settlements a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention’s prohibition on the transfer of an occupying power’s civilian population into occupied territory. Thus, they are illegal under international law. Israel disputes that the Fourth Geneva Convention applies to the Palestinian territories as they had not been legally held by a sovereign prior to Israel taking control of them. This view has been rejected by the International Court of Justice and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The vast majority of West Bank settlements are in between these definitions; they are considered illegal by the entire world, but legal by the Israeli government. However, sometimes they are considered unlawful even by the Israeli government. Now, this is about to change.
The Levi Committee ruled that the State must devise ways to legalize contested settlement and outposts in the West Bank. Moreover, it recommended easing land acquisition and zoning protocols for Jews residing in the area. This is important since many of the purchases are highly questionable. For example, in Migron, most of the land occupied by the outpost belongs to several Palestinian families living in the nearby villages of Burqa and Deir Dibwan. The Associated Press discovered in 2008, that Abd Allatif Hassan Sumarin, who supposedly sold a plot of land to the Binyamin Regional Council owned Al Wattan Ltd in 2004, had been dead since 1961. It is unclear if the new committee accepts such events as legal. It doesn’t matter, they are clearly illegitimate and unacceptable. A regime sanctioning such crimes renders itself illegitimate.
First reactions to the report were worrying. Committee member and Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan urged Netanyahu to call an urgent session of the Settlements Committee in order to “formulate a policy that will remove the uncertainty which is clouding the lives of thousands of families.” Settlement Committee member and Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Rabbi Prof. Daniel Hershkowitz said that the government should “treat the Levy Report as its new creed and not deviate from it one iota.”
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