Despite criticizing Israeli administrations for failing to prevent unauthorized Jewish outposts to crop up throughout Judea and Samaria, the three legal experts on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “outpost committee” have issued a recommendation to Israel’s highest echelons to legalize and expand them.
Supreme Court Justice Edmund Levy, former Foreign Ministry attorney, international law expert and ambassador to Canada Alan Baker and former deputy president of the Tel Aviv District Court – and daughter of famed Six Day War IDF chief rabbi Rav Shlomo Goren – Tchia Shapira were appointed by the prime minister in late January to investigate the legal status of non-permitted Jewish building in Judea and Samaria.
On Sunday, the team submitted their 89-page “Levy” report on the ramification of the outposts under domestic and international law to the Ministerial Committee on Settlements for approval.
Though the United Nations position is that new Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria are all illegal, the report found that conventional laws on occupation “as set out in the relevant international conventions cannot be considered applicable to the unique and sui generis historic and legal circumstances of Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria spanning over decades,” and found “Israel does not meet the criteria of ‘military occupation’ as defined by international law” in Judea and Samaria. Therefore, says the report, Jewish settlements and outposts are legal.
The groundbreaking report found that Israelis have the right to build and develop in the biblical heartland to the north and south of Jerusalem, which include such ancient and famous cities as Hebron, Bethlehem, Shechem and Beit El. “Israelis have the legal right to settle in Judea and Samaria and the foundation of settlements cannot, in and of itself, be considered illegal,” said the report.
Yet the report faulted the government for tacitly agreeing and even encouraging the development of some 100 new Jewish hamlets without permits between 1991 and 2005, saying the building was carried out with the full knowledge – and even assistance – of senior politicians, government ministers, and even the prime minister himself.
Because the building was done with the government’s knowledge, the committee found that the government “implied agreement”, meaning the prime minister could retroactively legalize the construction.
The committee urged the government to make its stand on Jewish settlement activity public and open, to exercise transparency in authorizing building and issuing permits, and to ensure that all building adheres to the code of law.
“Pending completion of these proceedings and examination of the possibility of granting building permits, the state is advised to avoid carrying out demolition orders, since it brought about the present situation by itself,” the report recommended.
Among the recommendations made by the committee are:
• New Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria should be established only by the government or an empowered ministerial committee.
• The Civil Administration should no longer be able to presume that land settled by Jews is Palestinian-owned without a Palestinian complainant demanding that squatters be removed. Jews would therefore not be subject to evictions unless a case is brought against them in court by a bona fide complainant.
• Expansion of community borders or jurisdiction must be done only after receiving the approval of the defense minister, with notification then being sent to the prime minister.
• Construction inside existing or future Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria should not require government or ministerial approval, but will still need to meet planning and zoning standards. This includes communities built on land seized by military order.
• Israelis should be afforded the right to directly purchase and register land in Judea and Samaria, with property and land registration conducted and completed within a reasonable period of time.
• The Land Registry records will be open to the public.
The report was received with cautious optimism by leaders in the movement to reestablish Jewish life in the areas made famous in the bible and reclaimed after 2,000 years of exile in the battles of the Six Day War.
“This new report is long overdue. We see this as a step by this government to right some of the wrongs of the past,” said David HaIvri, Director of the Shomron Liason Office, representing Jewish communities in Samaria. “I hope that the government adopts all recommendations that allow Jewish growth and explanation in Israel’s heart land. For the past many years we have seen the communities in Judea and Samaria unfairly restricted due to the former report written by the extreme left wing activist Talia Sasson. We look forward to the expansion and development of the communities of Judea and Samaria.”