This report is taken from the latest ‘Churches for Peace on the Middle East’ bulletin. The highlights are from Father Roy.
July 13, 2012
Israeli Report Rejects Occupation and Outpost Illegality
On Monday a panel commissioned by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released its final report on the status of settlements in the West Bank. The group decided that Israel’s presence in the West Bank does not constitute an “occupation” and therefore settlement activity does not violate international law. The results are only recommendations at this stage, but nevertheless, they received harsh criticism from Israeli peace groups and much of the international community.
The committee, headed by former Supreme Court Justice Edmund Levy, concluded that the “classical laws of ‘occupation’ as set out in the relevant international conventions cannot be considered applicable” given the unique circumstance of Israel’s presence in the West Bank. Additionally, it found “the provisions of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, regarding the transfer of populations, cannot be considered applicable and were never intended to apply to the type of settlement activity” that is carried out in the West Bank. This means, “the establishment of settlements cannot, in and of itself, be considered illegal.”
There are several recommendations in the report based on these conclusions. Levy and his colleagues believe that since the government provided encouragement and tacit approval for outposts, they should be legalized. In cases where settlers built outposts on private Palestinian land, the report suggests that Israel should create a separate judicial tribunal to investigate claims to the land. This could make the process harder for Palestinians to pursue claims by establishing a “fixed time period” for the owner to take legal action.
The committee convened in January this year after settlers in Netanyahu’s coalition pressured him to resolve the illegal outpost issue that has plagued Israel for years. In 2005, Talia Sasson issued a report at the behest of then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that revealed the Israeli government funded the building of settlements and outposts in the West Bank that were illegal under Israeli law. While the government voted to accept the report’s recommendations, there was no set timetable for evacuations and construction continued at a faster rate, often at odds with Israeli courts. The most recent example of this tension was the court ordered evacuation of Ulpana a few weeks ago, in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu followed the court ruling, but vowed to physically relocate the settlers’ homes and build 850 new ones to compensate.
It is important to remember that the Levy Report’s conclusions are mere suggestions for the Netanyahu government. Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein must examine the findings and approve them before Netanyahu and his cabinet can entertain the idea of legalizing all settlements.
Levy Report Fall Out
A press release from Americans for Peace Now quoted President and CEO Debra DeLee saying, “If the Levy Report’s recommendations become official policy, the Netanyahu government will be taking the country that we love and support one step closer to becoming an international pariah – a country whose government declares openly that it prefers land to peace and ideology over law and justice.”
Legal advisor to Yesh Din, Michael Sfard released a statement which, “The Levy Committee was conceived in sin to legalize a crime, and it has fully accomplished its mission. Its report is not a legal report but an ideological report that ignores the basic principles of the rule of law.”
If Weinstein does accept the findings, Jerusalem Post writer Jonathan Rosen cautions Netanyahufrom making the recommendations law. He writes, “To endorse the Levy report is to unmask the ongoing fraud by the Israeli government; it is to admit openly that the government has lent its tacit support to the establishment of the outposts and, as such, to the ongoing settlement of the West Bank, despite promises to the contrary. In short, to do so would be politically suicidal for Netanyahu.”
The report bolsters the settlers’ claims to the land in the West Bank and many of their supporters in the government praised the findings. Prominent Likud Knesset Member Danny Danon said, “The report will remove any leftist radicalism from previous court ruling on the outposts and bury once and for all the alarming report previously submitted by attorney Talia Sasson.”
The United States government says it has not changed its position on the issue of settlements. A State Department spokesman told reporters, “Obviously, we’ve seen the reports that an Israeli government appointed panel has recommended legalizing dozens of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, but we do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity, and we oppose any effort to legalize settlement outposts.”
This response uses the standard verbiage that has become commonplace in recent years. Several of the statements made by the President Barack Obama’s administration since 2009 involve the illegitimacy of the settlement enterprise but avoid deeming them illegal. However, the State Department says the outposts are illegal, but that view is in agreement with current Israeli law.
Father Roy writes: Watch this video featuring a Jewish settler who was born in the USA: A BBC interview with Israeli settler (08:05). We meet a number of religious Jews when we watch this video: How Christians are treated in Israel (02:07). The article pasted below was first published in the Huffington Post and is self-explanatory. Peace, Roy
As the Illegal Outpost of Migron Goes, So Goes All of Israel
The fate of Migron, an illegal outpost in the heart of the West Bank, is about to be decided. The implications of this decision are about far more than the future of a handful of settlers in a single outpost. This decision will be a litmus test of Israeli rule of law and, ultimately, of Israel’s capacity to make peace with the Palestinians.
How can one outpost be so important?
Outposts are settlements that have been built in the West Bank without Israeli government authorization, in violation of Israeli law. Migron is the flagship of the settlers’ illegal outpost enterprise — one of the largest and most developed outposts and the shining symbol of the settlers’ determination to overcome the Israeli government’s longstanding policy against establishing new settlements.
Migron is an open-and-shut case of theft, the physical embodiment of the settlers’ contempt for Israeli law. Migron is built entirely on land that Israel recognizes as privately-owned by Palestinians. Its establishment and expansion over the past decade epitomizes the corruption that is endemic in Israel’s rule in the West Bank, since neither could have taken place without Israeli government officials aiding and abetting settlers’ law-breaking.
And the persistence of Migron’s existence — despite its blatant illegality and despite repeated Israeli government promises to dismantle it imminently — discloses the settlers’ and the Israeli government’s flagrant disregard for Israeli law and the Israeli Supreme Court.
Last August, after more than 5 years of Israeli government foot-dragging in various legal proceedings, that Court finally laid down a deadline for dismantling Migron: March 31, 2012. With that date fast approaching, the Netanyahu government and the Knesset are now scrambling to find a way circumvent Israeli law and the Court’s decision. They are trying to find a “compromise” to appease settler law-breakers (not the first such effort), or to come up with a way to twist Israeli law to kosher the settlers’ criminal acts. This response to the Court points to an increasingly alarming problem in Israel: sacrificing rule of law to further a far right-wing, anti-democratic ideology. It highlights a longstanding reality that few have wanted to admit: the Israeli political system has to a great degree been hijacked by the settlers and their supporters, in the service of an agenda that openly seeks to keep all or most of the West Bank in Israeli hands in perpetuity, at the cost of any chance for Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Any future Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement will require the establishment of a viable, contiguous state of Palestine alongside Israel. Land swaps may allow most Israeli settlers to remain in their homes, but even the best agreement (from an Israeli perspective) will necessitate the evacuation of settlements located deep inside the West Bank. Migron is located deep inside the West Bank, in an area that cannot possibly remain under Israeli sovereignty in any future agreement.
If the government refuses to remove Migron, even with law and the rulings of the court requiring it to do so, it will send an unmistakable message: Israel today prefers settlements to peace. If Netanyahu claims he can’t remove Migron, because taking on the settlers will bring down his government, it will send another message: Israel is today so deeply in thrall to the settlers that it is incapable of making peace, even if it wanted to.
Finally, should the Israeli government find a way to “kosher” the settlers’ land theft in Migron, it will give a green light for the settlers to build illegally everywhere in the West Bank, knowing that no one, not even the Supreme Court, can or will stop them. In such a case, even if a future Israeli government is more serious about peace than the current one, settler actions on the ground will undoubtedly seek to block any agreement.
The case of Migron is thus not simply about the fate of one outpost. It is a test whose results will reveal whether Israel can continue to uphold even the pretense of being a nation of laws, in which the rule of law reigns supreme, or if it will instead openly embrace “rule by law” — an ugly characteristic of a totalitarian state. Likewise, the fate of Migron will disclose whether settler influence has so deeply penetrated Israeli policy and governance that Israel is no longer capable of upholding even the pretense of a commitment to the two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
(By Lara Friedman, originally published on the Huffington Post, February 14, 2012)