BEIRUT

Middle East

Netanyahu keen to adopt parts of report backing settler outposts

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses EU diplomats in Jerusalem October 16, 2012. (REUTERS/Ammar Awad)

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to adopt parts of a controversial report that proposes the government legalize unauthorised settler outposts, Israel’s public radio said Wednesday.

According to the radio, Netanyahu is looking to adopt some of the principles laid out in the so-called Levy report, which was put together by three prominent Israeli jurists and presented to the ministerial committee on settlements in July.

The report suggests the government legalize more than 100 wildcat outposts and concludes that Israel is not “a military occupying power,” arguing that international law does not prohibit the construction or expansion of settlements in the occupied West Bank.

It was roundly denounced by the Palestinians as well as by legal experts.

The radio did not specify exactly which parts the premier was planning to adopt, nor when he would do so, but said it was likely to be put for government approval before the country holds snap elections Jan. 22.

Netanyahu’s office refused to comment on the report.

The international community considers all settlements built in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to be illegal because they are built on territory Israel occupied during the 1967 War.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned that such a step “must be avoided” because it would only deepen Israel’s international isolation.

“Adoption of the report would not strengthen settlement in Judaea and Samaria [the West Bank], but would cause political damage to Israel and a deepening of its isolation within the world,” Barak said in a statement.

When the report was presented in July, Netanyahu reacted cautiously, saying the ministerial committee would discuss it, in what was largely interpreted as an attempt to steer clear of an international outcry.

Transport Minister Yisrael Katz, a Likud party member, welcomed the government’s “expected decision to adopt this report,” telling the radio it would send “a clear message affirming the right of Jews to settle in Judaea and Samaria” and help normalize their presence in the West Bank.

After the report’s release in July, some commentators said implementing its conclusions would be tantamount to annexing the West Bank – a charge which Katz denied. “No one has any intention of annexing the Palestinian population,” he said.

Commissioned by Netanyahu, the Levy Report not only proposes that the government legalize more than 100 outposts, but more importantly it concludes that Israel’s settlement policy in the West Bank is not illegal.

The document says the involvement government offices and ministries provided “implied agreement” for their construction and that they “can be legalized without the government taking any new decision.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 18, 2012, on page 9.

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