Edmond Levy, left, presenting the report to Netanyahu.
Former Supreme Court judge Edmond Levy, left, presenting the settlements report to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo by Amos Ben-Gershom
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In the 45 years that Israel has controlled the territories it conquered in the Six-Day War, Israel has refrained from imposing its law and administration on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as it has in East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Throughout this time Israel has made wide use of military orders in order to expropriate private, Palestinian-owned land and to classify hundreds of thousands of acres as "state land." These orders have been presented innumerable times in the High Court of Justice in response to petitions from the owners of these lands and from human rights organizations.

Now a panel of jurists, appointed by the Netanyahu government and headed by former Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy, has turned the whole thing on its head. In a report that could be a list of talking points for the Yesha Council of Jewish settlements, the committee, in effect, annexed the territories to the State of Israel, when it recommended that all Israeli outposts be sanctioned.

Israel's closest allies staunchly reject the claim that the territories are not occupied, but rather "disputed," and that the establishment of the settlements does not violate the Fourth Geneva Convention because it does not involve the forced transfer of a civilian population into occupied territory. In the Camp David Accords, which were signed more than 30 years ago, Israel itself recognized the special status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as well as the legitimate rights of their inhabitants. In the framework of the Oslo Accords, Israel conveyed either full or civilian control of about 40 percent of the territory in the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority. The Sharon government did not object to the clause in the "road map for peace" requiring it to suspend all construction in the settlements and to vacate all the outposts established after March 2001. That government also adopted the principles of the Sasson Report, which recommended the evacuation of 24 outposts.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, who opposed the creation of Levy's committee, has a responsibility to explain to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the profound international law implications of adopting the report's recommendations. Netanyahu must shelve the report and insist that the executive branch of his government enforce, without delay, the judicial orders regarding all of the outposts, starting with those built on private land.