Report recommends legalizing West Bank outposts, easing settlement restrictions

PM-appointed panel, headed by retired justice Edmund Levy, says settlements don’t breach international law; findings dismissed by Sharon’s former settlement adviser

West Bank outpost of Migron. (Uri Lenz/Flash90)
West Bank outpost of Migron. (Uri Lenz/Flash90)

A panel headed by retired Supreme Court justice Edmund Levy has issued a report recommending legalizing most of the unauthorized Jewish outposts in the West Bank. Made public on Sunday, the 89-page legal opinion was written at the behest of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The report concludes that the establishment of settlements in the West Bank does not breach international law, and that Jews can legally make their homes there. It states that “Israel does not meet the criteria of ‘military occupation’ as defined under international law” in the West Bank, and therefore the settlements and outposts are legal, since there is no provision in international law prohibiting Jewish settlement in the area.

The report recommends easing regulations on Jewish settlement in the West Bank by regulating zoning and planning, halting scheduled demolitions and planning building in accordance with population growth.

Justice Levy wrote that the settlement enterprise was created at the behest of the state, but criticized the lack of clear policy vis-a-vis construction and regulation.

The findings of the Levy report are at odds with previous legal opinions, most notably the 2005 report by attorney Talia Sasson compiled for prime minister Ariel Sharon, which found that some 120 West Bank outposts were illegal.

Sasson came out strongly against the findings the Levy report on Monday, saying that the report has no legal standing and ignores four decades of court rulings on the legality of unauthorized settlement in the West Bank.

She said that it would be impossible for Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to approve the findings of the Levy report, adding that the Supreme Court was the only body authorized to determine the legal status of the West Bank.

Also on Monday, Yesh Din, a human-rights group that monitors the West Bank, said the Levy report was “born in sin” as an ideological platform instead of as an unbiased legal opinion and asserted that the findings of the report are contrary to Israeli and international law.

“We must hope that after he found a magician to make the occupation disappear, Netanyahu manages to find another one to make the conflict vanish, otherwise we will soon find ourselves facing a one-state solution,” read a statement by the Geneva Conference.

Kadima MK Shlomo Molla predicted that the report’s findings would bury the peace process with the Palestinians and warned the government from adopting it.

Environment Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud), by contrast, welcomed the report, and urged the government to adjust its settlement policies in accordance to its findings.

MK Uri Ariel (National Union) praised the report and called on the prime minister to adopt it’s findings. Fellow National Union MK Aryeh Eldad also welcomed the Levy report, saying that it “shattered to pieces the left’s  ‘occupation’ mantra.”

MK Danny Danon (Likud) posted on his Facebook page that the release of the Levy report are a “day of celebration for the settlements. The report removes the values of the radical left from the court of law in relation to Judea and Samaria and buries the dangerous report of attorney Talia Sasson.”

Attorney Alan Baker, a former legal counsel for the Foreign Ministery and one of the authors of the report, denied that the authors were motivated by political considerations, asserting that the results were a legal analysis obtained after examining international, Israeli and Jordanian law.

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