In an attempt to forestall the leakage of votes from the ruling Likud party to the far-right parties, first and foremost the nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is Our Home) party, led by Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Liberman, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to submit for ministerial approval shortly some of the conclusions of the report authored by retired Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy, which deals with the outposts in the territories and the legality of the Israeli occupation.
The Levy report was published about three months ago [July 3] and stated that, under the international law, the Judea and Samaria territories did not come under the legal definition of “occupied territories.” The report further stated that the establishment of settlements was legal and that the State of Israel should act to legalize the majority of the outposts set up in the West Bank. The senior political echelon cautioned at the time that adoption of the conclusions of the Levy report would cause serious diplomatic damage to the State of Israel and, heeding its advice, Netanyahu subsequently shelved the report.
However, in the past few weeks, right-wing elements have been exerting pressure on Netanyahu to act for the legalization of the West Bank settlements and outposts and with the upcoming election in mind, the Prime Minister has reportedly decided to adopt some of the report's recommendations.
It was yesterday [Oct. 17] disclosed by Israel Radio that Netanyahu had ordered his bureau staff, headed by Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser, to prepare a draft resolution based on the Levy report that would allow pragmatic legal interpretation of the report, while taking care not to step on legal mines or violate the international law. The intention is, among other things, to ease the legal procedures that have inhibited construction in the West Bank thus far and obstructed the legalization of unauthorized outposts. At the same time, the motion to be submitted to the government for approval is not expected to adopt the central conclusion of the Levy report dealing with the legality of the Israeli occupation. Netanyahu thus hopes to appease the settlers while evading too-harsh condemnations.
Senior legal officials warn that even partial adoption of the Levy report is liable to get Israel into trouble in the international arena and involve it in prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague on charges of perpetrating war crimes. This, since under the international law, the transfer of populations of a conquering country into occupied territories is deemed illegal, and the same holds true for legislation purporting to legalize seizure of lands in occupied territories.
The move Netanyahu reportedly intends to take was met with sharp criticism yesterday. Cabinet ministers rushed to declare that “it's a transparent election campaign ploy, which seems to have been coordinated by Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak.” Opposition leader Shaul Mofaz announced that he would appeal to the state attorney general in an attempt to halt this political move. Labor leader Shelly Yachimovich too lashed out against Netanyahu's intent to adopt the report, charging that “it is a transparent scheme designed to divert the public debate over the [upcoming] election to a pseudo dispute between right and left, which anyway is no longer relevant.”
On the other side of the political map, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman called for the full adoption of the Levy report, noting that many problems could thus be solved, on the national level as well as on the international level.
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