Latest update: May 24th, 2013
The Levy Report’s conclusive findings: Israel is not an occupier, and the settlements are not illegal.
We all know that history repeats itself, but of late it seems that even the repetitions are repeating themselves.
A few days ago, Israel’s attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein, made a fairly straightforward announcement. He said that Israeli law, including the Antiquities and Planning & Construction Laws, apply to Israeli territory. Specifically, he said, since the Temple Mount is part of the territory of the state of Israel, these laws apply to that holy area.
This, of course, aroused the ire of Israel’s enemies. Jordan’s information minister and official spokesman said his country “opposes any Israeli attempt to take control over the holy Islamic sites.” He even warned that Weinstein’s words are liable to cause the outbreak of a religious conflict, “especially now, given Israel’s expansive attempts to Judaize Jerusalem.”
Shades of 1980.
Why? Because then, when Israel adopted the Basic Law stating that “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel,” there was a similar outcry. The New York Times said the move “can serve only further to complicate efforts to find a just and lasting solution…”
The paper acknowledged that Israel’s stated objectives – guaranteed access for everyone to the Old City’s holy places, as well as security from attacks – had not been satisfied under Jordanian rule. But, it concluded, “arbitrary Israeli annexation of the Old City is not the best way to achieve these aims.”
Then what is?
In any event, Weinstein himself watered down his statement regarding Israel and the Temple Mount. He said that because of the “unique character of the site, the law must be implemented with extra sensitivity with consideration given to practical ramifications as well.”
Weinstein was responding to the recent news that the Moslem Waqf (the religious trust that runs Judaism’s most sacred spot, the Temple Mount) had erected scaffolding inside the Mosque of Omar. The construction work was set precisely atop the ancient rock that most likely marks the spot of the Holy of Holies.
One might think, based on his statement, that he would welcome and encourage the state to take action to enforce the law, to dismantle the scaffolding, and to actively supervise the goings-on at the holy site. In fact, the Temple Mount Loyalists have filed a court petition demanding precisely those steps. But apparently Weinstein places more emphasis on the “extra sensitivity” he recommends on the Temple Mount than on the actual application of the law there.
Consequently, he announced his official opinion that the state should actually reject the petition and not take action to enforce the law.
It is true that the Temple Mount has not been totally given over to Wakf control. Recently, some state representatives toured the area and issued instructions to keep it clean. And of course, Israeli police man the gates (and do not allow Jews – and sometimes Arabs – to enter freely). But as attorney Naftali Wurtzberger said in response to Weinberg’s declaration, the bottom line is that official government bodies – the courts, the Chief Rabbinate, the police – are not enforcing the law on the Temple Mount, and the site has been all but abandoned by the State of Israel.
* * * * * With relatively little fanfare, Prime Minister Netanyahu received the official report earlier this month regarding the status of the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria (and Jerusalem). The report finds that the area is not “occupied,” but is essentially Israeli. It also concludes that all the outposts are not illegal under international law, and that Israel can and should legalize them as soon as possible.
The report was prepared by a special commission headed by former Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy. The core of its argument is this:
Judea and Samaria, together with the rest of Israel, was assigned to the Jewish people by the powers of the day at the San Remo Conference of 1920 and, later, the League of Nations. From 1948, Israel was unable to exercise its control over Judea and Samaria because the fortunes of war had left Jordan in control. Though Jordan “annexed” these areas, the world (except for Pakistan and Great Britain) did not recognize this. The Six-Day War of 1967 enabled Israel to return to what had been legally granted the Jewish people 47 years earlier.
This of course applies to Jerusalem as well, specifically, areas such as Ramat Eshkol, Gilo, and other eastern Jerusalem suburbs. While Jews around the world see no difference at all between these areas and pre-’67 neighborhoods such as Rechavia and Meah She’arim, the Arabs continue to term Ramot, Pisgat Ze’ev, etc., as “illegal settlements.” But, as the Levy Report explains, these areas were never Jordanian, but had rather been allocated to the Jewish people.
Interestingly, for a year or so after the War of Independence, western Jerusalem was Israel’s official capital – while eastern Jerusalem had no status at all. Jordan did not “annex” it until 1950. Even then, among all the countries in the world, only Pakistan recognized this move.
Another myth that the Levy Report puts to pasture is the claim that Israel is in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention by building and settling Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem. The Convention, dated August 12, 1949, details rules and guidelines for “occupied territories” – which Judea/Samaria is not. Levy makes clear that the territory was not captured from its legal sovereign, and that in any event, “occupation” is not a term that can apply to such a long period as 45 years, with no end in sight. Rather, the report states, if Jews have lived on land for several years with no Arab claimant objecting, Israel should allow them to register the land in their name. Similarly, the government should not be involved in land disputes: It need not have to approve every land purchase, and should not be allowed to evict alleged trespassers unless a claimant demands it.
Whether the international community, or even the Netanyahu government, will accept and recognize the Levy Report is another question. Meanwhile, supporters of the Land of Israel can rest assured that their efforts to build the Land are well-grounded, not only religiously and nationalistically but legally as well.
In addition to visiting Yerushalayim, there is much readers can do to become strong advocates for keeping Jerusalem united under Israeli sovereignty. For information on bus tours in news-making areas of Jerusalem, send an e-mail to email@example.com or visit the Keep Jerusalem-Im Eshkachech website at www.keepjerusalem.org.
Chaim Silberstein is president of Keep Jerusalem-Im Eshkachech and the Jerusalem Capital Development Fund. He was formerly a senior adviser to Israel’s minister of tourism. Hillel Fendel, past senior editor at Israel National News/Arutz-7, is a veteran writer on Jerusalem affairs. Both have lived in Jerusalem and now live in Beit El.
About the Author: Chaim Silberstein is president of Keep Jerusalem-Im Eshkachech and the Jerusalem Capital Development Fund. He was formerly a senior adviser to Israel's minister of tourism. Hillel Fendel, past senior editor at Israel National News/Arutz-7, is a veteran writer on Jerusalem affairs. Both have lived in Jerusalem and now reside in Beit El.
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