Legal expert: If Israel isn't occupying West Bank, it must give up land held by IDF
Legal experts respond to report published by Levy Committee on illegal outposts regarding West Bank construction; Talia Sasson: 'Israel in a dangerous position.'
Prof. David Kretzmer, an expert on international law, also commented on the findings of the Levy committee, appointed to investigate the legality of building outposts in the West Bank. "If Israel is not an occupying force, it must immediately relinquish ownership of all private lands seized over the years for military use, taken with authority as the occupying force in an occupied territory, and restore the lands to previous owners," said Kretzmer.
"I cannot understand how someone claims that Israel is not an occupying force in the West Bank, after over forty years of government petitions to the High Court of Justice, citing authority as an occupying force in an occupied territory," said Kretzmer.
The committee, headed by retired judge Edmond Levy, determined that construction in the occupied territories is in fact legal.
Lawyer Talia Sasson, who served in the past as the head of the special tasks department of the state Attonery General's office published a report in 2005 concerning illegal outposts in Judea and Samaria, also commented on the findings of the report.
"If the Levy Committee is pushing the government to determine that Israel's presence in the West Bank does not violate international law, Israel is in a dangerous position facing the rest of the world," said Sasson this morning to Haaretz.
According to Sasson, the Levy committee's report will not be accepted by the government without approval from the state Attorney General. "The state Attorney General is responsible for enforcing laws, and he is forced to follow the rulings of the High Court of Justice on this issue handed down over the last few decades. Without the Attorney General's approval, it does not matter who wrote the report, however lofty their legal position might be," said Sasson.
The committee determined that Israel is not an occupying force in the West Bank, and recommended to authorize all outposts without the need for retroactive government decisions, to repeal regulations requiring permission from ranking government officials for each and every stage of the building process, and not to carry out demolition orders.
Sasson lashed out against the committee's findings, stating that instead of reflecting various legal procedures and High Court rulings on the issue, the committee decided to make its own ruling.
"For 45 years, different compositions of the High Court of Justice stated again and again that Israel's presence in the West Bank violates international law, which is clearly opposed to Levy's findings. This is a colossal turnaround, which I do not think is within his authority. He can tell the government that he recommends changing legal status, and that's all," said Sasson.
According to Sasson, the report will have severe implications. "In 2005, the International Court ruled on the case of the fence, and stated unanimously that the occupation of the West Bank and the settlements are in violation of fourth Geneva Convention," said Sasson.
"If the Levy committee is pushing for the government to determine that international law does not forbid a presence in the West Bank, it is putting Israel in a difficult position facing the rest of the world. I'm not even speaking about how it looks when a supreme court makes a certain ruling for 45 years, and suddenly one judge comes and gives a contradictory opinion," continued Sasson.
Lawyer Michael Sfard, legal consultant for human rights organization "Yesh Din," also commented on the report. "The Levy committee was sinfully convened in order to legitimize a crime, and has fully completed its objective. The report is not legal, rather ideological, and it ignores basic principles of law and order," said Sfard.
He continued, "The committee members apparently fell down the rabbit hole, and their report was written in a wonderland governed by the laws of absurdity – there's no occupation, no illegal outposts, no laws, and apparently no Palestinian people. To take a line from Alice herself: 'this is the stupidest tea party I've ever been to in all my life.'"