In the summer of 2012, the Committee to Examine the Status of Building in Judea and Samaria (The Levy Committee) submitted its report to the Government of Israel. This report included far-reaching conclusions regarding the legal status of the West Bank and the legality of settlements. Yesh Din and the Emile Zola Chair for Human Rights published a response to the report entitled Unprecedented, written by Attorney Anu Deuel Lusky of Yesh Din’s legal team and jurist Keren Michaeli from the Emile Zola Chair for Human Rights. It included a critical reading and legal analysis of the Levy Committee’s conclusions.
The Levy Committee, headed by the late Supreme Court Justice Edmund Levy, was appointed by the Netanyahu government in February 2012 following political pressure from proponents of Israel’s settlement enterprise who sought a way to retroactively authorize Israeli outposts constructed illegally in the West Bank.
The Committee sought a juridical solution to the growing number of petitions submitted to the Supreme Court on behalf of Palestinian landowners, demanding that the State enforce its own laws and demolish illegal construction on their private land. The report’s far-reaching conclusions claim that the laws of international occupation do not apply to the West Bank, and that legitimate legal tools exist for approving outposts constructed without permits, even if they were built on private Palestinian land.
A review of the report shows that it chose to ignore hundreds of Supreme Court rulings, dozens of decisions by United Nations bodies and international tribunals, and thousands of articles by international legal experts. All these sources show a rare consensus in the legal community regarding the status of the West Bank as occupied territory. The Levy report does not engage with accepted legal principles and its conclusions lack any legal foundation.
As part of its proposed solutions, the Levy Committee recommends that the authorities recognize the presence of an “administrative promise” made by the government of Israel as a legal tool for approving the outposts. Unprecedented surveys the necessary conditions for administrative promises and concludes that although the State encouraged and financed the establishment of the outposts, these conditions were not met. Moreover, adopting the Levy report’s recommendations would gravely violate and even abolish Palestinians’ right to property.
The Levy Committee recommended that in cases when an outpost was established on private Palestinian land, the option of confiscating this land and transferring it for use by the settlers who seized it unlawfully should be considered. Adopting this recommendation would not only be perceived as lending legitimacy to the actions of persons who willfully broke the law, but also constitutes a dramatic departure from the duty of the occupying power to protect the property of protected persons, seize land strictly for military purposes, and to serve as a trustee of the territory and property confiscated while applying minimal changes to their status.