Legalise the settlements says Israeli judge

Map of Mandate era Palestine

Map of Mandate era Palestine, showing Israeli sovereignty over the area that was never legally superseded

Justice Edmond Levy, who was appointed by PM Netanyahu to head a committee to review the legal status of the settlements, has issued an extremely important statement (my emphases):

Israel must legalize the majority of illegal West Bank outposts, a committee appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to review the legal status of such communities recommended, Ynet learned Monday.

The panel, headed by Supreme Court Justice (Ret.) Edmond Levy, also ruled that the State must devise ways to “ease land acquisition and zoning protocols for Jews residing in Judea and Samaria.”

The Levy Committee, formed in January and comprised of Levy, Tel Aviv District Court Judge (Ret.) Tehiya Shapira and Dr. Alan Baker an international law expert, who was part of the team that devised the Oslo Accords, met harsh criticism from the Left, which claimed it was biased.

That’s rich coming from the Left, since the esteemed Talia Sasson joined the extreme-left Meretz party at the time she issued her damning report. It seems that what is sauce for the goose is not saucy enough for the gander – as we see below.

The committee’s findings stand to significantly change the legal reality in the West Bank, especially when compared to the 2005 Sasson Report on construction in the West Bank, which deemed 120 outposts as illegal.

Tackling the issue of sovereignty, the Levy Committee ruled that in its operations in the West Bank, “Israel does not meet the criteria of ‘military occupation’ as defined under international law.”

The ruling is based on the fact that “no other legal entity has ever had its sovereignty over the area cemented under international law,” the committee said, adding that the latter included Jordan, which ruled the area prior to the Six Day War.

West Bank settlements are legal since that is no provision in the international law that deems that having Jewish population in the area is illegal, the report added.

[...]

As for the matter of Israeli construction in the West Bank – and especially the question of illegal outpost – the committee ruled that the State must find a way to legalize and regulate the construction.

West Bank settlements and outposts were created as the State’s bidding, the report said, and the settlement movement was encouraged to continue its mission.

The report further urges the government to regulate the outposts’ municipal status, enable natural growth, accelerate the regulation of zoning and planning and refrain from executing any demolition orders pending further legal review.

[...]

Justice Levy criticized the “lack of clear government direction and policy” in regards to West Bank settlements.

“The conduct we discovered vis-à-vis the Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria is unbecoming of a nation that has made the rule of law one of its primary objectives,” he wrote.

Sadly there is a fly in this ointment:

Still, the committee’s recommendations are not mandating. Netanyahu is likely to ask the Ministerial Committee on Settlements to review the report.

I don’t trust Netanyahu and his advisers as far as I can throw them. I suspect these findings will end up buried in committee.

In complete contradiction to the findings of the Levy Committee, James Crawford, an”international law expert”, has provided his legal opinion that a trade ban on Israeli settlements is fully permissible.

European governments, including Britain’s, have received legal opinion from a leading international counsel who argues they would be fully within their rights to ban trade with Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The formal opinion from James Crawford, professor of international law at Cambridge University, is likely to inject fresh momentum into campaigns in the United Kingdom and elsewhere for a ban, at a time when some EU member states are examining ways of hardening their position on the imports of settlement produce.

Israeli settlements in the West Bank are considered illegal under international law, a position upheld by all EU member states.

These EU members states need to read Justice Edmond Levy’s opinion above, read the San Remo Conference resolutions and take a look at the maps of Palestine from the San Remo conference rather urgently. They are talking out of their hat. Further, they need to read Judge Eugene Rostow’s opinion (he helped to formulate UN resolution 242) of the legality of Israel’s capture of the territories in 1967.

Back to the Independent article:

In particular the opinion will be seen as challenging received wisdom in official circles that for a state such as Britain to ban imports of settlement produce, or prohibit banks from financing settlement activity, would contravene European or global trade law. Professor Crawford says in his 60-page opinion, shown to senior officials of EU member states in the past few months and seen by The Independent, that “there do not appear to be any EC laws which could be breached by a member state taking the decision to ban the import of settlement produce on public policy grounds.”

He argues that member states wishing to block the import of produce from settlements could “have recourse” to the EU’s Association Agreement with Israel, which stipulates that the agreement “shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles.” He argues that, by executing such a ban on trade with settlements, the EU would not be in breach of its World Trade Organisation obligations since, “as a matter of international law, the West Bank and Gaza cannot be considered to be Israel’s territory”.

The opinion will be published this week by the Trades Union Congress, which has mounted a sustained campaign for a ban on settlement trade – as distinct from a boycott of Israel itself, which the TUC does not support.

Read it all if your blood pressure will allow it.

You might be interested, however, in the background of this international law expert James Crawford.

In the 2004 International Court of Justice ruling about Israel’s defensive separation wall, dubbed the “apartheid wall” by Israel’s opponents, Crawford was one of the lawyers for “Palestine”.

He is as neutral as Talia Sasson and even more prejudiced against Israel. Watch the British media lionise him.

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10 Responses to Legalise the settlements says Israeli judge

  1. Pingback: Legalise the settlements says Israeli judge « Simon Studio Analysis

  2. Philip says:

    You seem to put quotation marks around ‘international law expert’ when it comes to James Crawford, but you allow the term to be used without when it comes to Amb. Alan Baker.

    Now, I can see the problems with the current veneration of ‘experts’. James Crawford may or may not be right in his legal opinion. The point about public international law, and indeed domestic law, is that the writers of the law are not always the ones who get to interpret it. Did the framers of the US constitution imagine that their document would be used to justify abortion 200 years later? Almost certainly not, but that’s what happened. International law’s interpretation might be varied, but the opinion of a particular person has no bearing on his status as an ‘expert’. In fact, the opposite is surely true: a person’s expertise only enhances his / her legal opinion.

    Which brings me back to Crawford. A graduate of Adelaide University, with a doctorate from the University of Oxford. His thesis in the creation of new states under international law (supervised by Ian Brownlie, one of the most celebrated international lawyers of the 20th century). Crawford has taught at Adelaide, Sydney and Cambridge. He is admitted to practice at the bar of three jurisdictions, and has worked on many ICJ cases. I could go on. Frankly it’s hard to think of someone who more fits the description of ‘international law expert’. (Though again, I emphasise that he might be wrong, that’s a case you can make with arguments.)

    As for Amb. Alan Baker, I can’t find any information on his credentials, except that he was a legal adviser to the Israeli foreign ministry, and an ambassador to Canada. Levy was a specialist in criminal law, so I would classify him as less of an expert in international law than James Crawford.

    Anyway, given that it’s quite plain that Crawford is a distinguished expert, let the argument be won through reasoning!

    • anneinpt says:

      Alan Baker is an extremely distinguished and esteemed legal expert in the field of international law. You can read his bio here in Hebrew.

      Here’s the google translation (no time to pretty it up).

      Ambassador Alan Baker is one of the leading experts in the field of international law. He served as legal counsel and deputy director general of the Foreign Office between 1996 and 2004, and then Israel’s ambassador to Canada between 2004 – 2008.

      He joined the Foreign Service after years as a military prosecutor and an officer senior consulting in international law of the Judge Advocate General, where he worked on security issues and military and represented in the security at international conferences on subjects such as law of the sea, weapons, the ICRC and international law humanitarian.

      During 35 years of government service, Ambassador Baker has been involved directly in negotiations with Israel’s neighbors and the overall peace process in drafting the peace treaties and other agreements. Also dealing in negotiating and drafting of commercial agreements, treaties and agreements Aviation various fields with many countries. Foreign Ministry legal adviser, Baker advised prime ministers, foreign ministers and the government, Knesset committees and government bodies on issues of bits of international law.

      Ambassador Baker has represented Israel at international conferences and negotiations in international law such as laws of the sea, aviation law, international criminal law, environmental law, water resources law, military law, disarmament and human rights law. He has developed considerable expertise in international law in concerning counter-terrorism.

      Baker represented Israel preparatory committees and conferences related to the drafting of the Statute of the International Criminal Court (1998), and headed the team – prepared by the office of Israel’s arguments before the International Court of Justice on Israel’s Security Fence (2004).

      Since 1989, Baker serves as a member of Israeli Ambassador at the Permanent Court Arbitration, an international institution with more than one hundred member countries, established in 1899 to permit international arbitration and other forms of dispute resolution between states, government institutions, organizations Binmmsltiim and private entities. Ambassador Baker also serves as a member of the International Institute of Humanitarian Law.

      Between 2001-2003, he headed a special team consisting of representatives of various government agencies and lawyers successfully negotiated compensation agreement compounded with Ukraine and Russia after the overthrow of civil aircraft with Israeli casualties and many Russians (2001-3).

      Between 1985-1989 he served, the Israeli government loan, the United Nations Secretariat senior lawyerly Attorney General’s Office of the UN, and also dealt with the international development agreements, Veterans Administrative Court of the United Nations and real estate legal advice on the United Nations in New York and other centers around the world.

      Israel’s ambassador to Canada (2004-2008), in addition to representation in Israel towards the government and people of Canada with all that entails in terms of political and PR, founded Ambassador Baker Chamber of Commerce in Canada – Israel and initiated increasing trade relations between the two countries are in the public sector and between entrepreneurs and companies in the private sector. He led bilateral agreements – lateral fields of agriculture, SF police, commercial, industrial research, and combating terrorism.

      Ambassador Baker has published articles on the International Criminal Court, international humanitarian law issues, the Middle East peace process and related water in the Middle East as a means of achieving peace. He regularly speaks on panels and on campuses on topics of international law, the peace process and international terrorism.

      In addition to companies in Israel Bar Association, Ambassador Baker is a member of International Law, the International Institute of Humanitarian Law, International Association of Lawyers and Jurists Jewish, and is a member of the Israeli panel of Arbitrators at the Permanent Court Hague.

      Alan speaks English and Hebrew.

      I would say he is at least as qualified as Crawford. Perhaps I’m showing my bias by putting Crawford’s credentials in quote marks, but it’s my blog and my bias!

      • Philip says:

        Fair enough. It’s your blog and your bias, but I just wanted to point it out. Always better to address people’s arguments rather than question their credentials, especially when they are so qualified!

  3. pola says:

    I am no legal expert. In truth I don’t even understand this blog item, but there is no mention of people. Are there Palestinians living there? What is their legal right? There is lots of talk about legal jargon and no talk of people. Besides the Israel settlers I can’t tell who live there. Besides the Israelis, and as a lover of Israel, we have a responsibility to everyone living there.

    • anneinpt says:

      Pola, the committee was intended to deal with the land, not the people. No settlements have been built ever on land where Palestinians were already living. i.e. no Palestinians were evicted to build settlements. It appears there are some settlements built on land which Palestinians claim is theirs. Until now, if the Israeli courts deemed that the land belonged to the Palestinians they ordered the settlers removed and the houses destroyed. That is ridiculous because the land cannot be used by the Palestinians since it is always within Israeli controlled territory. The Palestinians should be given compensation instead.

      Just a few weeks ago when Israel evicted settlers from Givat HaUlpana in Bet El, it wsa first decided to destroy the houses. Meanwhile it has been resolved to be remove the houses without destroying them and place them elsewhere. But since the plot of land in that neighbourhood is within an existing legal settlement, there is no way that the Palestinian owner can use the land. He should be compensated instead, and this is part of what the committee wants to organize and standardize – the rules of ownership of the land, legalizing where necessary and compensating Palestinians owners.

      There is a problem (not addressed in the committee I think) in that Palestinian land-owners do not want to receive compensation from Israel because then they are viewed as having dealt with Israel and effectively “sold” their land to the Jews – which carries a death penalty under Palestinian and Jordanian laws. In this way any legal Jewish acquisition of territory in Israel in stymied. In any other country it would be called antisemitism.

      Nice people, huh?

  4. Pingback: Ariel “University Center” is now a full-fledged university | Anne's Opinions

  5. Pingback: The legal case for Judea and Samaria | Anne's Opinions

  6. Pingback: Reclaim the language, reclaim the land | Anne's Opinions

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