Great News! The Occupied Territories Aren't Occupied
By Isabel Kershner
New York Times
Wednesday, Jul 11, 2012
Editor's Commentary: What a great idea! Framing of the message is so important in winning the hearts and minds, so kudos to whomever the hell in Israel came up with this gem.
Instead of worrying about Israeli squatters in the Occupied Territories, just declare that the territories aren't occupied at all - they're part of Israel. So there. The West Bank isn't occupied, it's part of Israel. Well, that settles that, no?
So I guess this officially means the two-state solution is dead. Time to let the Palestinians vote and run for office in israeli elections, cuz as we all know, Israel is a democracy ...Right?
Axis of Logic editor
Flouting international opinion, an Israeli government-appointed commission of jurists said Monday that Israel’s presence in the West Bank was not occupation and recommended that the state grant approval for scores of unauthorized Jewish settlement outposts there.
The committee’s legal arguments, while nonbinding, could provide backup for the government should it decide to grant the outposts retroactive official status. But such a move would inevitably stir international outrage and deal a significant blow to prospects for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement.
“The report relates to the question of legality and legitimacy of the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement issued by his office, referring to the West Bank by its biblical name. He added that the report’s conclusions would be submitted to a ministerial committee on settlement affairs for discussion and that “the facts and claims” presented in the report “merit serious examination.”
Most of the world views the areas that Israel conquered from Jordan in the 1967 war, and where the Palestinians want to establish a future state, as occupied territory, and all Israeli construction there as a violation of international law. Israel distinguishes between its 120 or so established settlements in the West Bank and those that went up since the 1990s with some government support, but without formal government authorization.
The three-member committee, led by Edmund Levy, a retired Supreme Court justice, confirmed a position long held by Israel that those territories are not occupied, since Jordan’s previous hold over them was never internationally recognized, and that their fate must be determined in negotiations.
“The classical laws of ‘occupation’ as set out in the relevant international conventions cannot be considered applicable to the unique and sui generis historic and legal circumstances of Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria spanning over decades,” the report stated, leading to the conclusion that “according to international law, Israelis have the legal right to settle in Judea and Samaria.”
Fatah, the mainstream Palestinian national movement led by President Mahmoud Abbas, issued a statement saying that the Levy committee’s conclusions were a “farce” that “mocked and defied the international community.”
Palestinian officials noted that the report was published on the anniversary of the July 9, 2004, advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, which determined that Israel’s construction of its barrier across the 1967 boundary, in West Bank territory, violated international law.
The Levy report said the outposts now deemed unauthorized were established with the knowledge and encouragement of Israel’s most senior government echelons, concluding that this amounted to “implied agreement.”
The committee proposed a process of approval for outposts built on state land through planning and zoning authorities, without need for further approval at the political level. It stipulated that the zoning authorities should take into consideration “future natural growth.”
Israeli courts have recently ruled that several outposts and buildings constructed on land where Palestinians claim private ownership should be evacuated or demolished. Thirty families were evicted from five such buildings last month.
The committee proposed that cases of conflicting claims should be examined by a judicial tribunal before the state makes any determination regarding petitions for eviction or demolition. It also determined that there is no prohibition on construction within existing settlements on land initially seized by military order, although Israel’s High Court in 1979 outlawed the use of such land for civilian settlement.
Mr. Netanyahu formed the Levy committee in January, under pressure from settler leaders who wanted a counter to a highly critical 2005 report on the outposts commissioned by the government of Ariel Sharon and written by Talia Sasson, a former state prosecutor. That report described widespread state complicity in the construction of more than 100 illegal outposts, as well as fraud and the illegal diversion of government funds.
Mr. Sharon encouraged the outpost boom, calling on settlers in 1998 to grab as many hilltops as they could. Under American pressure, he later pledged to remove some two dozen outposts, a promise that has remained unfulfilled.
While calling for sanctioning the outposts, the Levy committee admonished successive Israeli governments for allowing settlement to grow in an informal and arbitrary manner that “does not benefit the behavior of a state that prides itself on, and is committed to the rule of law.”
Israeli human rights organizations opposed to settlement slammed the report.
“The Levy Committee’s suggestion to view illegal statements or actions by various ministers as government consent undermines the principles of the rule of law and good governance,” Michael Sfard, the legal adviser of Yesh Din, said in a statement.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel said that the report’s conclusions were “legally unfounded and their purpose is to authorize and deepen the injustice that Israeli governments are performing in the Occupied Territories in the past 45 years.”
The Israeli government retroactively legalized three outposts in April in a move that some critics saw as a dangerous precedent. Officials defended the move as purely procedural and said it did not constitute any change on the ground.
In another development, gunmen from Gaza opened fire on Monday evening into southern Israel, hitting a civilian car that was empty at the time, according to the Israeli military. The military published photographs of the car, which contained a baby seat, punctured by bullets. There were no injuries.
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