The Levy Report on the legality of West Bank settlement construction, though never officially adopted by the Israeli government, is being informally implemented, a newly released document published by a left-wing organization claims.
According to the Hebrew news site nrg, the contents of the document – released by Yesh Din (“there is law”), an Israeli NGO that provides free legal assistance to Palestinians – was confirmed by right-wing sources in the know. These sources said that the Netanyahu government, through Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, has in effect adopted the findings of the “Report on the Legal Status of Building in Judea and Samaria,” prepared by the late Israeli Supreme Court justice, Edmund Levy, and published in July 2012.
What Levy concluded was that Israel’s presence in the West Bank is not an occupation, and that settlement construction does not constitute a violation of international law. The report recommended that the state legalize unauthorized Jewish outposts, and proposed new guidelines for building in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).
According to nrg, Ya’alon’s office is refusing to comment on the Yesh Din document, authored by Ziv Stahl and attorneys Michael Sfard and Shlomi Zacharia, whose petitions to the High Court led to the evacuation some years ago of the Givat Ha’ulpana and Amona outposts.
Their document, says nrg, highlights changes that have taken place in court rulings, which its authors claim indicate the government has been putting Levy’s recommendations into practice without officially acknowledging doing so. Their assertion is that, unlike in the past, the government has begun siding with the settlers in most petitions against them, and that it has made clear to judges that it would prefer to find a way of authorizing the settlements in question, rather than demolishing them.
One example cited by nrg from the document was the recent petition submitted against Mitzpe Dani, an outpost in the Binyamin region. The petitioners demanded that the demolition orders issued by the Civil Administration (the Israeli governing body in the West Bank) be implemented – on the grounds that the outpost did not have an approved construction plan. But the state declared it was moving ahead with a general plan for government-owned land in the area, and as part of that plan, Mitzpe Dani would become a neighborhood within the communal settlement of Ma’ale Michmash.
International law expert and former Israeli ambassador to Canada Alan Baker, a member of the Levy Commission that produced the report, told nrg that from the outset, “The intention was not that it would be adopted with official fanfare by the government. We only wanted to provide tools to the various ministries handling the relevant fields…On the day the report was released, there were jurists who claimed it was a disaster. Hillary Clinton denounced it before it was even translated into English. The Left thinks that it recommends laundering illegal construction; the Right thinks it calls to annex the territories. This is not true at all. There is no political element here. We worked very seriously to create a professional report.”