Levy Report out: what should Israel do?
The Levy Report started a debate that demands that someone decide.
Only Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel can decide. He is at
heart a politician. So he might not want to decide. But now he must.
The Levy Report in detail
The Levy Report takes its name from Edmond Levy, retired Chief
Justice of the Israel Supreme Court. He headed the “Commission to
Examine the Status of Building in Judea and Samaria.” The Levy Report says:
Judea and Samaria (a/k/a “The West Bank”) are not “occupied
territories” in the classical sense. If anything, Israel got some of its
own land back in the 1967 War. (Jordan seized the land unlawfully in
1950. Before then, the Jews lived in that land for thirty-five hundred
years. Jordan has since renounced its claims.)
- The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 does not apply here. The
government of Israel has never forced a single Jew to live in that land.
- The government of Israel cannot pretend that they did not authorize any given settlement.
- The government should make up its mind about letting Jews settle
there. It should say forthrightly whether it will let them settle or
not, and where.
- Building within bounds of a settlement shouldn’t need a ministry official to let that happen. But the Minister of Defense should sign off on extending the bounds of a settlement.
The rest of the report discusses how to let a settlement expand, what
to do if a settlement didn’t submit a town plan, and how to resolve
conflicting claims to any land.
How Israel and the world reacts
The National Palestinian Authority rejected the Levy Report. This should surprise no one. A spokesman for PA chief Mahmoud Abbas said:
We will not sign any peace agreement if there is a [single] settlement on Palestinian Land.
The problem: what is “Palestinian land”? The PA went on to demand all
of the West Bank territory. (They spoke of “pre-1967 borders,” which
means the Green Line or 1949 Armistice Line.) In that case, the PA
really said that they want to make their land Judenrein, or
“Jew-free.” In case anyone still doubts that, the PA also said that they
want East Jerusalem back as the capital city of a new “Palestinian
Liberal Jews, in and out of Israel, are afraid to do the obvious thing: annex Judea and Samaria completely. Jonathan Rosen wrote in The Jerusalem Post
that every Israeli government since the Oslo Accords have said that
they wouldn’t let any Jews settle in the region. But the Jews settled
anyway. The government pretended that it never authorized them to
Legalizing the outposts would put an end to that façade
and would be a slap in the face of the international community,
including Israel’s friends and allies.
That much is true. The Levy Report does tell the government to drop
all pretense that it never let any Jews settle in Judea or Samaria after
the Oslo Accords. Prime Minister Netanyahu set up the Levy Commission,
and now he will have to decide. Does he accept the Levy Report, or not?
Rosen says that Netanyahu will not.
If he does not, then he will be acting like a politician. A statesman would accept the Levy Report and everything that it implies.That includes recognizing Judea and Samaria as belonging to Israel alone.
Trudy Rubin, in The Philadelphia Inquirer, calls
for Netanyahu to do the political thing. She offers two reasons for
this. Both are specious. First, she says that the Israel Defense Forces
would have to stand down and “hand back” the land. The Levy Report
suggests no such thing. Second, she is afraid that admitting 2.5 million
new Arab citizens would let the Arabs outvote the Jews in all of
Israel. She must rely on old demographic projections that simply do not
hold. In fact, Jews would still outnumber Arabs two-to-one, all told.
That ratio is not likely to fall and is more likely to rise.
The Edmund Levy report made a very clear legal
statement,” said Hotovely. “It said that every Israeli government can
build anywhere in Judea and Samaria and it said, in a very clear voice,
that this is not conquered land when it comes to international law
She stopped short of calling on the government to annex the land. But
today the Women in Green will open their second annual convention to
ask for exactly that. Yeshiva World News clearly wants
the same thing, though it is afraid that this will not happen. YWN
blamed “successive secular leaders” since Levi Eshkol for putting Israel
where it now sits, Eshkol was Prime Minister during the Six-Day War.
Naftali Bennett, in March of 2012, suggested doing something in-between: annexing only part of the West Bank land. The Oslo Accords divided the West Bank into three “areas,” though only one area is all in one piece:
- Area A: the cities of Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah, Jericho, Bethlehem,
and Hebron, certain areas immediately around them, and another area
south of Salfit. The PA, and only the PA, patrols those areas.
- Area B: villages slightly out from Area A regions. The PA collects taxes there, but the IDF patrols them.
- Area C: all the rest. Those are areas of Jewish settlement and
Israeli administration and control. This is the all-in-one-piece area.
Bennett says that the government should take Area C and leave Areas A and B to a “Palestinian state.” (This map, from the UN humanitarian agency
for the West Bank and Gaza, shows Area C.) 96 percent of “Palestinians”
live in the A and B areas. Area C includes 59 percent of Judea and
Samaria. Bennett would offer full voting rights to the 4 percent of
“Palestinians” living in Area C. Bennett would also let Egypt annex the
Gaza Strip if it wants.
The Bennett plan came out ahead of the Levy Report. No one is talking about it, though the editors of Arutz-7
mentioned it in passing. Those most interested in Biblical, or at least
Old Testament, fidelity, might not want to surrender all those cities
permanently to Arab ownership and control.
So Israel has lots of choices. What should Israel do next?
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