JERUSALEM (JTA) — West Bank settlements are legal under international law, according to an Israeli committee set up to review the legal status of West Bank land.
The Levy Committee, which was formed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and headed by former Israeli Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy, said in its 89-page report released late Sunday that “Israel does not meet the criteria of ‘military occupation’ as defined under international law” in the West Bank, and that therefore settlements and West Bank outposts are legal.
The report recommends changing the legal regulations concerning Jewish settlement in the West Bank in the areas of zoning, demolitions and building.
The committee calls for the legalization of all outposts and allowing landowners to register land in the West Bank under their own names, as well as allowing people who built homes on Palestinian-owned land to pay compensation to the alleged owners if the construction was made in good faith.
It accepted the legal opinion of the right wing in determining that Israel is not an occupying power on the West Bank, saying that the West Bank was never a legitimate part of any surrounding country, including Jordan. "(N)o other legal entity has ever had its sovereignty over the area cemented under international law," the report said.
In addition, there is no place in international law stating that it is illegal for Jews to live in the West Bank, the committee wrote.
The findings of the committee are subject to the review and approval of Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.
Netanyahu established the committee in January after settler leaders called for a response to the 2005 Sasson Report on illegal outposts, which concluded that more than 100 West Bank settlements and outposts constructed from the 1990s and forward were illegal.