Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Ladies and Gentlemen — It's a Revolution

by Nadav Shragai

When the Likud rose to power in May of 1977, Israeli broadcaster Haim Yavin coined the phrase: "Ladies and gentlemen — it's a revolution." If the Ministerial Committee on Settlement Affairs adopts the legal alternative presented in Judge Edmund Levy's report to that of Talia Sasson, the lawyer who in 2005 compiled a report for then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declaring all settlement outposts illegal and the state prosecution which has represented this policy, then we will be able to finally say that there has been a revolution. It will be a revolution in terms of settlement law and we will finally be able to determine that the Likud has risen to power.

In their 90-page report, the three members of the Levy Committee finally enable the government to remove the High Court from decisions on issues that they are not meant to be dealing with in any case — land and ownership disputes. As we know, the High Court judges are not the appropriate judges for such issues.

Judge Levy, former Foreign Ministry legal adviser Ambassador Alan Baker and retired Tel Aviv District Court Judge Tchia Shapira recommend that such issues be left to the lower courts. To avoid the evacuation and destruction of towns and outposts in Judea and Samaria, the question of ownership would first be decided by the lower courts.

The Levy Committee definitively rejects Sasson's accusations against settlers. The committee holds that settlements were established with full government knowledge, "from the government ministers to those leading the government, and down to the lowest levels of implementation." The committee also absolves settlers of any accusations that they are criminals: "The government's argument that the settlements were established illegally, despite its own encouragement of construction on the one hand while 'freezing' their planning procedures on the other — is behavior suffering from the greatest lack of good faith."

The Levy report provides ample tools that, if adopted by the government, might save Arnona and Givat Assaf. It could also be used to inform the High Court, before Sunday, that the Jews of Ezra will not be evicted from their homes. It also provides the legal infrastructure to allow the government to complete the planning process and approval of many neighborhoods in settlements whose establishment was encouraged by the government, via the "tower and stockade" method — that any illegal building may not be demolished if the roof has been completed — quietly and with a wink. The report also deals with the bizarre "land-use disturbance" order that enabled the Judea and Samaria Civil Administration to "throw" Israelis off their land or out of their homes whenever a Palestinian claimed ownership of them; the committee proposes "throwing" the order away. On Monday, Levy dubbed this order "draconian," and declared that "the legal system has no room for it."

Most of all, the committee brings to the fore the policy that Deputy Attorney-General Mike Blass and his friends have been tiptoeing over in recent years: Israel is not occupying anything! Judea and Samaria are not being held under a belligerent occupation. Israelis have a right to settle in Judea and Samaria and the settlements are not illegal! 

Nadav Shragai


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