State Dept. Raps Israeli Report On Settlements
07/11/12
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The Obama administration criticized an Israeli panel finding that West Bank settlements are legal under international law.

“We do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity and we oppose any effort to legalize settlement outposts,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told reporters Monday evening.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns could bring up the Levy Committee report during meetings this week in Israel, accompanying  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her visit to the region.

The committee, formed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and headed by former Israeli Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy, said in its 89-page report 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.

Dovish Jewish groups in the United States criticized the report.

Americans for Peace Now called on the government of Israel “to repudiate the findings of the commission it appointed to address the problem of illegal outposts in the West Bank.” APN added that Israel “would cause terrible damage to its international standing, to its relationship with the United States, and to prospects for peace with the Palestinians.”

J Street called on the Israelis “to reject the committee’s recommendations and to choose instead a path that leads to two states, thereby securing both Israel’s Jewish and democratic future.”

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. 


Last Update:

07/16/2012 - 18:08

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'The Obama administration criticized an Israeli panel finding that West Bank settlements are legal under international law.'

The US government, philosophically guided by the State Department, has opposed the reestablishment of the Jewish state (1949) and the national interests of Israel since Theodore Herzl published "The Jewish State, 1896". That is a long history of flawed thinking and failed policies by the US State Department in the Middle East. Somebody could write a book about it. My suggestion for a title - "Mistakes". How can I confidently argue that our Department of State doesn't know what they are doing in the Middle East? I say that simply pointing to the 100s of thousands of war-dead in Syria, Lybia, Egypt, Lebanon, Iran, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, with no end in sight, should be a self-evident proof. The geniuses at State have argued for decades that if the Palestinian-Israeli conflict could be settled, peace would break out around the globe! That is where they focused most of their attention.
I say the proof that US thinking on Israel is replete with catastrophic errors is, again, self-evident. Is there anyone on the planet, today, who believes that a signed Israel-Palestinian peace treaty would a) lead to real peace between Israel and her neighbors, and b) solve the ongoing savage conflict in the Arab countries? Case closed. We live in extremely dangerous times. Let's pray that the near all-out war in the Muslim states doesn't ignite a larger global war. Wake up State Department.

Be very careful about substituting political desire for legality. It is one thing to argue that it is undesirable for Israel to establish, maintain and grow settlements. It is something completely different to twist interpretations of international law to support those desires. Israel is entitled to equal and accurate application of the law. Any person or group purporting to support Israel should not undermine that. If we are selective about Israel’s rights as a nation state in international diplomacy we perpetuate the double standard of treating Israel differently than every other nation.

The Levy Report is correct in its conclusion that the territories are not occupied and the settlements are not illegal.

Now that the Levy Report is out, let Americans for Peace Now, J Street and President Obama acknowledge the plain legal facts. Let them make a case with the Israeli government about why, despite those facts, they should negotiate to trade land for peace. And let them work with the many Arab nations and the Palestinians, who have turned down so many offers of peace, to put an honest deal on the table to convince Israel that, even though it is not legally bound to do so, it would achieve a just, real and lasting peace.

For further reading, there are several well written documents published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs that analyze international law as it applies to occupation. Titles include Israel's Rights as a Nation-State in International Diplomacy, Why Is Israel’s Presence in the Territories Still Called “Occupation”?, and International Law and Gaza: The Assault on Israel’s Right to Self-Defense.

So what was it -- did the JTA report only site the notoriously anti-Jewish J Street and not US supporters of Israel, or did the Jewish Week excise the latter?

Unfortunately, a full English translation of the Levy Committee report is not yet available (or I have missed it). I do not know what it has added to measured legal reviews of the past that reached similar conclusions, such as Eugene Rostow's.

Would like also to know where the State Department´s legal review found the Levy Committee report to be lacking. And with the State Department response, we know where President Obama stands. Would appreciate comments from Mr. Romney´s camp.

Though I am not a lawyer, everything that I have read about the legality of Jewish settlements west of the Jordan River suggests that they are, in fact, legal. The Levy Panel merely confirmed what many observers already new to be true. The troubling aspect of the US reaction to the Levy Report is that it shows a disregard for objective analysis of international law and capitulation to Arab political interests. It may be easier in the near-term to apply double-standards to Israel and unjustly punish her behavior, but it is not right in the long run and it will backfire. For instance, look at the widespread, brutal violence which happens every day in the Arab world. Decades ago Arab violence was almost exclusively aimed at Israel. The international community abdicated their responsibility to condemn that violence as totally unacceptable because it was aimed at Jews and we know how they love Jews. The result of tolerating Arab violence was that it proliferated like a cancer. What the world community didn't foresee was that Israel would defend herself and would eventually prevent most of the Arab terrorism aim against her. But the Arab training and expertise in suicide attacks and bomb making would be turned against other enemies, other Arabs. The results of the devastating Arab violence which we see today can truly be traced back to the double-standards the US and the world applied to Israel. Had every nation in the world come down on the early suicide attackers of Jews like a ton of bricks, the insane Arab violence, we witness today, would have been nipped in the bud because there would have been nothing gained - only condemnation.

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