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
Israel, its neighbors, and disputed territories. Graphic: Central Intelligence Agency
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 state.”
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 settle.
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.
Knesset Member Tzipi Hotovely wants the government to accept the Levy Report now. She is writing a bill to that effect and will introduce it to the Knesset.
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.