Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu planned to bring retired Supreme Court Judge Edmond Levy's report concerning the legal status of Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria before his cabinet on Wednesday, seeking to adopt some of its conclusions, Israel Radio reported.
According to the report, a designated team within the Prime Minister's Office recently drafted a proposal on the issue, which will be presented to the government.
The report, which was first exposed by Israel Hayom three months ago, was composed by a committee that included retired Tel Aviv District Court Judge Tchia Shapira and former Foreign Ministry legal adviser Alan Baker, as well as committee chairman Levy. The three submitted their report in June but it wasn't officially released until a month later.
Its main premise was that, under international law, Israel is not an occupying force in Judea and Samaria as it has a legal right to settle there. The report recommended reforming the legal status of the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria in such a way that would legalize most of the outposts, currently illegal under Israeli law.
When the report was first published, Netanyahu called it “important” and said it “discusses the question of the legality and legitimacy of the settlement movement in Judea and Samaria on the basis of the facts and claims that merit serious examination.”
Israel Radio quoted senior officials as having said that Netanyahu would likely seek to implement the report's recommendations while attempting to circumvent “international law obstacles.” One commentator surmised that Netanyahu wants to ease legal guidelines that have inhibited construction thus far without making any fundamental legal changes that could result in scrutiny by the judicial branch or violate international law.
Likud minister Yisrael Katz clarified that the prime minister's plan to adopt the report's principles did not mean that Israel would impose sovereignty over the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. He added that such a move may be considered in the future. Speaking to Israel Radio, the minister said that adopting the report's principles would simply pave a smoother path toward providing the residents of these communities with day-to-day needs and grant them “a normal life, like the rest of the country's citizens.”
Kadima MK Yisrael Hasson criticized the move, saying that the government was playing with fire on a powderkeg. The Palestinians do not have a clear diplomatic future, he said, and the situation is currently very volatile. “Netanyahu's government plans to enslave the State of Israel for political gain, and we are going to pay the price,” he warned.
Labor Party Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich also came out against adopting the report, calling Netanyahu's plan a “transparent, pointless elections maneuver that won't help the residents of Judea and Samaria, won't contribute to Israel's national and international fortitude, and certainly won't help the citizens of Israel, already burdened to the point of breaking under Netanyahu's anti-social and destructive policies.”
“There is no doubt that Netanyahu is worried over the public's unwillingness to accept a reality in which a roof over their heads, a decent living and good health have become luxuries that only the rich can afford,” Yachimovich said. “In his re-election campaign he will undoubtedly try to force a return to the Left-Right debate, which no longer exists.”
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak also voiced opposition to Netanyahu's efforts. “Adopting the [Levy] report will have the opposite effect than its supporters may expect. Adopting the report will not bolster the settlement in Judea and Samaria, it will merely undermine Israel's diplomacy efforts and further isolate Israel from the world. Therefore, such a move should be avoided.”
On the other side of the issue, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman declared that the Levy report should be adopted in full.
“The report was compiled by senior legal experts headed by a retired Supreme Court justice, and adopting it in its entirety would resolve many problems, both nationally and internationally,” Lieberman said in a statement.
Lieberman added that the committee's conclusions were accurate and important, “and their adoption by the government would contribute greatly to the fortitude of the State of Israel.”