Retired Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy, who heads a committee tasked with examining the legality of Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria, declared on Tuesday that Israelis have a legal right to settle the region.
“According to international law, Israelis have a legal right to settle all of Judea and Samaria, at the very least the lands that Israel controls under agreements with the Palestinian Authority,” Levy stated. “Therefore, the establishment of Jewish settlements [in Judea and Samaria] is, in itself, not illegal.”
The committee was established by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in efforts to determine and cement the legal status of the outposts in Judea and Samaria, with an emphasis on communities that were not built on privately owned Palestinian land but their status was still in doubt due to legal bureaucracy.
The committee issued its report on Tuesday, which was subsequently handed over to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein. In the report, Levy wrote that “upon completing the committee’s tasks, and considering the testimonies heard, the basic conclusion is that from an international law perspective, the laws of ‘occupation’ do not apply to the unique historic and legal circumstances surrounding Israel’s decades-long presence in Judea and Samaria.”
“Likewise,” the report said, “the Fourth Geneva Convention [relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War] on the transfer of populations does not apply, and wasn’t intended to apply to communities such as those established by Israel in Judea and Samaria.”
The committee’s recommendations include the following: The government must clarify its position on the issue of Israeli settlement in Judea and Samaria to prevent varying interpretations of its policy; a new community will only be built after the government or an authorized ministerial committee has approved it; the expansion of a community outside the bounds of its authorized jurisdiction must first be approved by the defense minister or a ministerial committee on settlements, in coordination with the prime minister.
Under these circumstances, the report concluded, the evacuation of such communities would be impractical and another solution, such as compensation or land swap, should be implemented. Therefore, the committee recommends in its report, the government should avoid issuing demolition orders for these communities because it is the government itself that created this situation in the first place.
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