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The Levy Report: Settlements Are Legal

October 10, 2012
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They declared that the classical laws of “occupation,” as set out in the relevant international conventions, cannot be considered applicable to the uniquely historic and legal circumstances of Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria (referred to as the West Bank) over the past decades.

In addition, the provisions of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention regarding transfer of populations cannot be considered to be applicable, and were never intended to apply, to the type of settlement activity carried out by Israel in Judea and Samaria, but were stipulations for war time. The Levy Report states: “Therefore, according to international law, Israelis have a legal right to settle in Judea and Samaria, and the establishment of settlements cannot, in and of itself, be considered to be illegal.”

The Historical Context

Though the Levy Report did not clearly state the historical context for its findings, it can be assumed that the Commission’s conclusions were based on some simple facts.

When the Ottoman Empire dissolved after World War I, the League of Nations divided the lands in 1920. Britain was assigned the responsibility of overseeing the southern part of “Ottoman Syria,” which included Palestine (as Israel was known at the time) and portions east of the Jordan River. The British gave those lands east of the Jordan River to the Arabs for the creation of the Emirate of Transjordan in 1921 (modern-day Jordan) and supervised the provision of “a national home for the Jewish people” on lands west of the Jordan River, according to the Balfour Declaration in 1917.

The Arabs had already received their portion with Transjordan, but the 1947 UN Partition Plan further divided up the land destined only for the Jews. The new Jewish and Arab states were to come into existence two months after the British withdrawal. This plan was accepted by the Jewish community but was rejected by both the Palestinian Arab Higher Committee and the Arab League.

In the wake of Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, when local Palestinian militias and the combined armies of Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon tried and failed to destroy the nascent Jewish state, Jordan seized control of Judea, Samaria, and parts of Jerusalem. However, the international community never recognized Jordan’s sovereignty over these areas.

During the 1967 Six Day War, the combined armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and numerous other countries and organizations again tried and failed to destroy Israel. Instead, Israel gained control of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, along with Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, the Sinai Peninsula, and the Golan Heights, rightfully winning these territories as a result of that war. Israel’s sovereignty over those territories was totally acceptable under international law as a result of winning a war that was declared against it.

The Commission might have also taken into account the Jewish people’s ancient historical ties to Judea and Samaria, since the area has been the cradle of Jewish civilization and statehood for over 5,000 years. This far predates any Arab claim to the land. Only in the past 50 years, have they tried to redefine history and declare that the “Palestinian” Arabs were original owners of the area. But God said in the Bible that He gave this land to the Jewish people as their eternal inheritance.

On the other hand, the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial branch of the United Nations, asserted in its 2004 advisory opinion that the lands captured by Israel in the Six-Day War, including East Jerusalem, are “occupied territory”. Thus, all construction in these territories is deemed illegal by the United Nations body.

Settlement Construction with Guidelines

The Commission advises the government “to clarify its policy regarding settlement by Israelis in Judea and Samaria, with a view to preventing future interpretation of its decisions in a mistaken or overly ’creative’ manner.” Among several detailed proposals, the Commission suggests that the government allow settlement construction based on the following summarized principles:

  •  Any new settlement in Judea and Samaria should be established only after being decided by the government or duly empowered ministerial committee.
  • Construction within the bounds of an existing or future settlement should not require a government of ministerial decision, but should be approved by the planning and zoning authorities.
  • The extension of an existing settlement beyond the area of its jurisdiction or original plan should require a decision by the minister of defense, with the knowledge of the prime minister.

The Levy Report declares that the Commission’s recommendations are befitting a state committed to the rule of law and not a state as in its formative stages when things were done in an informal and arbitrary manner. Thus, proponents of settlements “should internalize and acknowledge the fact that all actions on this matter can only be in accordance with the law.”

It is possible that Levy, Baker, and Shapira might not succeed in convincing Israel’s detractors that settlements are legal, and that the people who populate them are law-abiding citizens by any criterion, but at least the Report offers a refreshing and positive perspective on the Jewish settlements in Israel from the legal point of view. And, as Hagai Segal of Ynetnews commented, the Levy Committee shatters the false “occupation” allegation and reminds us that, in purely legal terms, Israel did not occupy an inch in Judea and Samaria.

Source: By Teri Riddering, Spanish Language Coordinator

Photo Credit: www.israelimages.com/Richard Nowitz

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