Thursday, July 12, 2012

Levy's report is Netanyahu's headache

Levy's report is Netanyahu's headache

Dan Margalit

The person who gave attorney Talia Sasson, who would eventually run on the Mertez ticket for Knesset, the job of drafting a report about the legality of the outposts in Judea and Samaria — ordered, in advance, a recommendation to wipe them off the face of the earth. The person who later gave the committee headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy the job of drafting a report on the same matter ordered, in advance, the recommendation that the Sasson report be wiped of the face of the earth. Both cases involved esteemed, ethical jurists who are divided less by professional considerations and more by political-ethical ones.

Levy excelled on the High Court of Justice in his rulings on criminal issues, and in his modesty and humble nature that led him to retire without fanfare upon reaching retirement age. His political views, however, were transparent, and were expressed in his minority opinion that rejected the Gaza disengagement based on land-related passages from the Torah.

His committee was comprised of former legal adviser to the Foreign Ministry Dr. Alan Baker, and retired judge Tchia Shapira, the daughter of Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren. For a period of four months Shapira worked out of her office on Nevi'im Street in Jerusalem, hidden from the public spotlight, interviewing figures from across the political spectrum, including Deputy Attorney-General Mike Blass.

Levy's committee determined a few basic certainties: The situation was a mess, as Baker termed it, in regard to the settlements; settlement, however, was permissible and praiseworthy, and wasn't illegal if privately owned lands were not confiscated from Palestinians.

On a practical level, another legal proceeding should be held on the way to the High Court of Justice. In actuality, Levy's findings made the High Court almost completely unnecessary, because, due to the position postulated in his report, Judea and Samaria are not occupied territories.

A few ministers from the Right applauded the report, either out of hostility toward the High Court of Justice and the Attorney-General's Office, or out of a desire to advance the settlement cause.

The Levy report, however, will give Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a public-sized headache. Indeed, it is advisable to be positioned between the situation that has existed since the Six-Day War in 1967 and the findings outlined in the report.

Within the current reality, it isn't easy for the settlement enterprise to progress and develop, but it still does so persistently. On occasion a home is destroyed, sometimes a neighborhood is razed, and rarely an entire hilltop community is evicted. But under the cover of darkness provided by clouds of legal uncertainty and an ambiguous commitment to the rule of law, the settlement enterprise has thus far managed to consistently grow.

From this aspect, it is not only in the Right's interest that the government adopts Levy's recommendations; it is the radical Left's interest as well. Indeed, if Israel has ceased to define itself as a country that abides by various international agreements or by the supremacy of the rule of law, it will find itself under unprecedented international pressure.

The Right doesn't really care about that. The Left hopes for outside pressure on Israel. Ironically, it is the settlement movement that will be weakened.

Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that Netanyahu identifies with the basic viewpoints expressed in Levy, Baker and Shapira's report. But it is equally reasonable to assume that he will recoil from forming the report's main recommendations into an actual law.