A committee appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman in February to study the topic of settlement construction in Judea and Samaria and draw conclusions on illegal outposts there has concluded that Israelis have an internationally guaranteed right to settle in Judea and Samaria.
The conclusions of the committee, headed by former Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levi, were published by Israel Hayom on Tuesday and were accepted with open arms by right-wing politicians and councils.
"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."
Naftali Bennett, former head of the Yesha Council, the umbrella body of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, said on Wednesday, "The right of Jews to settle in all parts of Israel has existed for 3,800 years, since the days of our forefather Abraham. This right has also been supported by international law since 1920. I congratulate former Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levi on his conclusions, which are based on a basic and solid foundation."
Knesset State Control Committee Chairman Uri Ariel (National Union) said, "The committee's conclusions clearly prove that the settlement enterprise as well as the outposts are legal, legitimate, worthwhile and grounded in international law. I expect the Ministerial Committee on Settlement Affairs and the government to adopt the report's conclusions immediately."
MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) said, "The legal ruling that will allow settlements in Judea and Samaria to expand to include additional outposts and neighborhoods will fulfill the will of Israeli citizens who voted for a national government."
The committee issued its report on Tuesday, which was subsequently handed over to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein. In the report, Levi wrote: "Upon completing the committee's tasks, and considering the testimonies heard, the basic conclusion is that from an international legal 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 Fourth Geneva Convention on the transfer of populations does not apply, and was not intended to apply to communities such as those established by Israel in Judea and Samaria."
Upon its establishment in February, the committee headed by Levi was charged with reviewing a 2005 government report by former State Prosecutor's Office official Talia Sasson, which found that several dozen outposts had been built not only without state approval, but on privately held Palestinian land. Officials said at the time that the report needed to be reviewed because Sasson, who later entered politics on the left-wing Meretz party list, may not have been entirely objective. The panel's makeup, however, aroused suspicions that it would legalize at least some of the more than 100 outposts built without government authorization, including dozens Sasson said were erected on privately held Palestinian land. Some politicians cited Levy's outspoken stance against Israel's unilateral withdrawal of settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005.
Benny Katzover, chairman of the Samaria Residents' Council, said, "The report lays to rest another report by Talia Sasson. We call on the government to adopt its main point, which states that we are not 'foreign occupiers' of the land. Every Jew has a legal right to settle in Judea and Samria."