A committee headed by former Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy determined that Israel is not an occupying power in the West Bank and recommended that the State sanction the majority of illegal Jewish outposts in the region. Netanyahu announced that he would implement the panel's recommendations as soon as possible, as though the settlement policy has ever been subjected to legal or moral decisions. The settlers were elated – "our right to the Land of Israel has been given the seal of approval." Seeing as Levy was a Supreme Court justice, you don't have to be a prophet to guess what their reaction would be had he decided otherwise.
In the 45 years since it conquered – or liberated – territories during the Six Day War, the country has avoided enforcing Israeli law and administration in the West Bank and Gaza. During this time, Israel has made extensive use of military injunctions to expropriate private Palestinian lands and declare hundreds of thousands of dunams to be State-owned land. These injunctions have been submitted to the High Court of Justice countless times in response to petitions filed by land owners and human rights groups. And now, a committee of jurists appointed by the Netanyahu government has turned the tables. In its report, the committee effectively annexed the territories to the State of Israel.
I do not need the retired judge's verification that we are not occupiers, as the land was not captured from the Palestinians, but from Jordan. Nor do I require his recognition of our right to the Land of Israel. As opposed to my friends from the Left, I believe Jewish settlement in Gush Etzion is morally justified, even more than settling in the kibbutzim of the Hashomer Hatzair movement. It is not a question of rights, but options.
Like the Right, I doubt Israel will achieve peace with the Palestinians in this generation. I do not believe that Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), who was born in Safed and rejected all of Olmert's generous proposals, will ever be able to relinquish the right of return and stay alive, but I do not want to prevent the next generation from living in peace.
It should be noted that the Levy Committee stressed that its recommendations referred to the West Bank outposts' status under Israeli law, not international law – as though it wasn't obvious that the West, headed by the US, would reject the committee's findings.
His honor clarified why we have a right to the land, but he did not address the more important question of whether we have an obligation to the land. I have a right to tell my neighbor, "Good morning, mister hunchback," but I would be better off waving this right if I want to live with him in peace. I have no doubt it is our right to settle in the city of our forefathers (Hebron), but I doubt we are obliged to do so.
Regrettably, Levy failed to clarify whether the unconquered land was Israeli land. Should Israeli law be imposed in full on the settlers, who, in the meantime, can continue receiving various benefits and close IDF protection? Levy tackled this issue from a legal standpoint, but not from a practical one. Should the territories be annexed? Should Israeli law be imposed on their inhabitants? Or maybe they should be recruited to the army, as suggested by Foreign Minister Lieberman, who is known as a champion of equal rights.
Levy should turn to the settlers and explain that he is proposing to grant citizenship to the West Bank's Arabs and allow them full freedom of movement, everywhere. At the very least he should let the other segments of the population and to the world know if he is suggesting that Israel enact separation laws – because "apartheid" is a vulgar phrase and "how can anyone compare Israel's policy in the territories and apartheid?"
Does Justice Levy believe that what the State of Israel needs, at this time of social unrest, division over the universal draft and the Iranian threat, is the legalization of outposts? Would it be prudent to sanction outposts when the free world, the relatively sane Arab countries and Israel share common interests?
Gili Haskin is a tour guide in Israel and abroad