Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday announced that retired Supreme Court Judge Edmond Levy's report concerning the status of Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria will soon be brought to the Ministerial Committee on Settlement Affairs for discussion.
"First of all, I very much appreciate the efforts of Judge Levy and the people who worked with him," Netanyahu said, according to a statement released by the Prime Minister's Office. "They did serious, quiet work over long months. I will submit this report to the Ministerial Committee on Settlement Affairs that I established and we will discuss it and make a decision."
Netanyahu called the report "important," and said it "discusses the question of the legality and legitimacy of the settlement movement in Judea and Samaria on the basis of the facts and claims that merit serious examination."
The report, which was first exposed by Israel Hayom last week, was composed by a committee headed by Levy and included retired Tel Aviv District Court Judge Tchia Shapira and former Foreign Ministry legal adviser Alan Baker.
The three submitted their report nearly a month ago, but it was only officially released on Monday. Its main premise was that, under international law, Israel is not an occupying force in Judea and Samaria.
The prime minister asked Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein to give his opinion on the report's conclusions. Weinstein is expected to deliver his opinion after the State Prosecutor's Office holds a series of professional-level discussions in the coming weeks on the legal consequences of the report's findings.
Senior legal sources said that the assessment published Monday night in the media, according to which the attorney general will not give legal credence to the report's conclusions, has no basis in reality at this point, as Weinstein himself is invested in the issue. The sources stressed that the Levy committee's conclusions are subject to the approval of the attorney-general.
Despite the remaining obstacles, the Right was quick to praise Levy's report. Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) said that, "This report pushes the political report composed by Meretz attorney Talia Sasson into the dustbin of history. Now, the Supreme Court must give answers based on the Levy report instead of the Sasson report."
The Levy report contradicts a similar report composed by Sasson in 2005 under then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) announced that she would present the Knesset with a bill that adopts the conclusions of Levy's report.
MK Ofir Akunis (Likud) added, "The report provides firm proof that Judea and Samaria was not occupied, but liberated."
Yesha Council Chairman Danny Dayan lauded the report and said, "any decent person who has to choose between Edmond Levy, Tchia Shapira and Alan Baker on one side, and Talia Sasson on the other, knows indeed with whom lies legal expertise, personal integrity and political impartiality."
However, not everyone embraced Levy's report.
At a press briefing on Monday evening, U.S. State Department Spokesman Patrick Ventrell said, "The U.S. position on settlements is clear. Obviously, we’ve seen the reports that an Israeli government-appointed panel has recommended legalizing dozens of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, but we do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity and we oppose any effort to legalize settlement outposts."
Ventrell said Washington was "concerned" over the report.
The report will likely be raised during State Department Deputy Secretary William Burns's visit to Israel this week and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit next week.
In Israel, the Left sharply criticized Levy's report.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) said the report's conclusions "are legally unfounded and authorize a regime of institutionalized discrimination that has been in place for 45 years.”
Attorney Tamar Feldman, director of ACRI’s human rights in the territories department, said, "The settlement enterprise created a wrongful situation of absolute preference, in all areas of life, to the interests of settlers over those of Palestinians, while appropriating the land and water resources of the occupied population and injuring this population’s most basic rights."
The Yesh Din human rights organization said, "The Levy Committee was conceived in sin to legalize a crime, and it has fully accomplished its mission."
Attorney Michael Sfard, Yesh Din's legal advisor, argued that the report "is not a legal report but an ideological report that ignores the basic principles of the rule of law."
He added, "The members of the Levy Committee apparently fell down the rabbit hole, and their report was written in Wonderland, governed by the laws of absurdity: there is no occupation, there are no illegal outposts and there is apparently no Palestinian people either. To that we must say in the words of Alice: ‘This is the silliest tea party I have ever been to.’
"Adoption of the committee's recommendations would lead to widespread land theft and complicate Israel's relations with the rest of the world," Sfard said.
Yesh Din plans to contact the attorney general, who the organization says is the only authoritative interpreter of the law for the Israeli government. The organization intends to present the attorney general with its opinion over the issue of illegal outposts before he makes his final decision on whether to accept the Levy report's conclusions.
MK Dov Khenin (Hadash), also responding to the Levy report, said, "Netanyahu's government ordered and received a report which completely ignores both international law and Israeli law. This is primarily a certificate showing a detachment from reality."