Thursday, July 12, 2012

Talia Sasson's chutzpah

Talia Sasson's chutzpah

Ruthie Blum

The Israeli Left has got its knickers in a serious twist, with the release of a report demonstrating the legality of outposts in Judea and Samaria (a.k.a. the West Bank).

Peace Now director-general Yariv Oppenheimer — like a true rebel-robbed-of-a-cause-by-reality — put on his best pout-face for the TV cameras when asked about “The Report on West Bank Settlements,” commissioned in January by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Oppenheimer accused the committee appointed to investigate the legal status of unauthorized Jewish building in Judea and Samaria of having a political agenda — you know, a right-wing one.

His indignation over the 89-page document — prepared over the past six months by former Supreme Court Justice Edmund Levy, former Foreign Ministry legal adviser Alan Baker and former deputy president of the Tel Aviv District Court Tchia Shapira — was nothing compared to that of legal eagle Talia Sasson, however. And it’s no wonder.

Sasson is the author of a similar report conducted in 2005 at the behest of disengagement Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Her findings, however, were the opposite of those handed over to the government this week.

While continuing to pride herself on her own objectivity, Sasson — whose own report was a scathing condemnation of Israel’s settlement policies cloaked in lawyer lingo — thought nothing of running for the Knesset shortly thereafter on the Meretz ballot.

But, as the Left as a whole has no shame, Sasson in particular took the prize for talk-show-circuit chutzpah last night.

Not only did she ooze disdain for the members of the panel for reaching different legal conclusions and recommendations from hers, but she warned of the repercussions that adopting the current conclusions would have on — you guessed it — the “international community.”

Oops. Her Freudian slip was showing. The current committee actually steered away from diplomatic and political concerns during its examination. All it dealt with was international and domestic law. And it was on this basis that it drew its conclusions.

Further, while I have nothing to say about the political leanings of Justices Levy and Shapira, I know that Baker is not a member of the Right. He is, however, an expert on international law. That Sasson doesn’t like what international law has to say about territory she imagines is at the root of the Palestinians’ conflict with Israel is another story — an old and tired one, at that.

What clearly shocks her and her cohorts the most is the committee’s assertion that Jewish settlement of the West Bank is not illegal because it is — gasp — NOT occupied territory.

How is this possible?

In 1967, when Israel managed not to get annihilated by its Arab neighbors by emerging the victor of the Six-Day War, the territory it captured was Jordanian. But even that was questionable, as the Hashemite Kingdom’s annexation of the West Bank in 1948 was never recognized internationally — and in any case, it renounced its claims to the area in 1988. In other words, there is no sovereign entity in that territory.

So horrified is Sasson that a document dare contradict her view of the situation that she failed even to address parts of the report that are critical of Israeli government policy. But this might be a function of her not having bothered to read it.

For example, the report states that unauthorized construction was “carried out with the knowledge, encouragement and tacit agreement of the most senior political level — government ministers and the prime minister.”

As a result of the chaotic way much settlement was undertaken in the past, the report determines, much house-cleaning is needed, both to retroactively legalize settlements in limbo and to regulate how and where settlements should be allowed to be built in the future. It even recommends establishing a new court to deal specifically with this issue or extending the jurisdiction of district courts to do so.

Obviously, the outpost review has political implications, as all those who support its implementation know very well. This does not mean that it was tainted by politics — certainly not any more than Sasson’s work was seven years ago.

That she is being disingenuous now only serves to reinforce what many of us thought of her findings at the time. My recommendation to her today is that she get off her high horse and go read the report from beginning to end. She might learn something beyond jerking her knees.