<a href="http://www.mepc.org/articles-commentary/middle-east-focus">Middle East In Focus</a>
A committee appointed by the Netanyahu government to examine the legality of Israel’s claim to Judea and Samaria (known outside of Israel as the West Bank, minus East Jerusalem) has come out with its final report. The report, a nonbinding legal recommendation, declares that the West Bank is not occupied territory and advocates the legalization of most Israeli settlements and outposts. This has predictably caused much debate and controversy among Israeli and Palestinian commentators.
According to the Palestinian news site MIFTAH, the committee “released its recommendation on Jewish settlements in the West Bank…recommending that Israel legalize outposts....While the recommendation is a non-binding legal opinion, it will likely be used to address criticism faced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about his plans to build more Jewish homes in the West Bank, both within Israel and abroad. The report reasserted the claim that the West Bank is not occupied territory, and thus Jewish settlement is legal.”
For the right-wing Likud party’s Tzipi Hotovely, the conclusions of the report give Israel grounds to fully annex the territories: “[It is] time to apply Israeli law over Judea and Samaria…. The Levy Report established de facto that it is no longer possible to treat the legitimate settlement of Judea and Samaria as a misbegotten stepchild, a wild west twilight zone....The report did not present anything new in saying Judea and Samaria are not occupied territory according to international law....There is also nothing new about the government’s ability to build settlements in Judea and Samaria.”
Kevin Zdiara, writing for Arutz Sheva, believes that legally absorbing the territory would silence critics of the occupation: “[It is time to] make the case for Judea and Samaria already…. This will be the most important challenge for the present and the coming Israeli governments and ultimately it will decide the fate of the Jewish state. Against accepted knowledge, it is not the legal gray area of Israeli presence in the ‘territories’ that has turned world opinion against Israel; it is the ambiguity of Israel’s own arguments regarding the building of houses in Judea and Samaria that has led to questions concerning the Jewish people’s claim to those areas.”
Looking ahead to the possible implementation of the committee’s recommendations, including annexing the West Bank and forcing the Palestinian residents out, the head of the Israel-America Renaissance Institute, Paul Eidelberg writes: “This will require wise and courageous leadership. I see no alternative but to seize the first propitious opportunity — and it will come — to destroy the entire network of Arab terrorists between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, and also proclaim Jewish sovereignty over this land. It would then remain to implement an energetic but humane — say seven-year — political program with economic incentives to encourage most of the Arab residents therein to emigrate.”
But for Yedioth Ahronoth’s Boaz Okon, the committee report is mere fiction: “Occupation can’t be erased…. The Levy Report on legitimizing Israel’s West Bank outposts cannot legitimize Israel’s actions in the territories. One cannot curb millions of Palestinians’ demands for freedom via legal reports....The report is an unusual example of the shortcomings of the system, which insists on translating moral and political questions into a legal conflict. Asking whether the territories are occupied according to international law is twisted question and misses the essence. The question should not focus on the territories, but rather, on the people who live there.... Judges cannot turn occupied territories into unoccupied territory.”
Finally, writing for the Palestinian website Al Qassam, Khalid Amayreh sees the report as yet another attempt at legalizing a land grab: “The drafters of the committee recommendations belong to a Jewish school of thought who teaches that the ancient or Biblical land of Israel covers much of the Middle East, including the entirety of Palestine, Syria, Lebanon as well as parts of Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Moreover, the compilers of the committee report seem to be racist to the hilt, as they paid virtually no attention to the very existence of the Palestinian people, treating them as if they didn’t exist....The Israeli Jewish society continues to drift toward more brazen forms of fascism and more violent forms of jingoism. This augurs very bad for non-Jews as well as many liberal Jews who still harbor some modicum of rectitude and human decency.”
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