UPDATE 10 am Israel time Monday:
Four wanted Palestinian terrorists were arrested by the IDF in Samaria last night. Another knife-wielding Palestinian terrorist was captured at a checkpoint just outside of Hevron (Hebron).
Six months ago, PM Netanyahu formed a committee of three noted legal experts (former deputy President of the Tel Aviv District Court Tchia Shapira, former Foreign Ministry legal advisor Alan Baker, and former Supreme Court Justice Edmund Levy) to investigate the legal status of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria that were built without “proper authorization” (many others of course were built with all the “proper” permits and approvals).
The 89 page final document produced by this Committee was released to the media yesterday. It is important to note that the document is advisory in nature and has yet to be reviewed or approved by the government–though one can assume that approval will be eventually forthcoming.
In broad strokes, the Committee flatly states that Judea and Samaria are not “occupied”: “the classical laws of occupation as set out in the relevant international conventions cannot be considered applicable to the unique and sui generis historic and legal circumstances of Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria . . .” (For a good discussion of why Judea and Samaria are not “occupied”–written by Danny Ayalon, the deputy foreign minister of Israel, click on this link to an article in the Wall Street Journal).
More than this, the Committee bluntly declares that the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention against the transfer of populations is totally inapplicable to Israelis choosing to live in Judea and Samaria: “Israelis have the legal right to settle in Judea and Samaria and the establishment of settlements cannot, in and of itself, be considered illegal.”
In addition, the Committee points out that approximately 100 new communities that were built between 1991 and 2005 without official “authorization” were, in fact, built “with the knowledge, encouragement and tactical agreement of the most senior political level – government ministers and the prime minister.” In other words the construction of these communities did not have the proper governmental permits but did have the “implied agreement” of the government. As such, these communities can be authorized retroactively should the government so desire.
Some of the Committee’s relevant recommendations:
*Future construction should not take place in Judea and Samara without proper authorizations and permits.
*Planning and zoning authorities should immediately complete the authorization process for pre-existing communities that were built on state land without any further political approval.
*No demolition orders should be carried out against any pre-existing community until that community’s authorization process is complete.
*All communities that have been built on non-state land whose title is unclear should be termed “communities whose legal status is pending”. To this end, a new court should be created in Judea and Samaria to adjudicate issues of land ownership.
*No community can build on land beyond its property without approval of the defense minister.
*Construction within the boundaries of a community’s land does not need governmental or ministerial approval–but does need authorization from planning and zoning entities.
*Israelis should be able to directly buy land and property in Judea and Samaria and expect to have that land or property registered within a reasonable length of time.
Of course, these recommendations are meant to avoid the fiascoes that have taken place with the Ulpana neighborhood of Beit El (where 5 buildings containing a total of 30 apartments are being moved to a different plot of land, and as a result 300 new apartments are being authorized for construction), and with the Migron community (where an evacuation and demolition order has been put on hold until at least July 15–based on new evidence that the community members have actually purchased the land from private Palestinian landowners).
Nevertheless, implementing the Committee’s recommendations promises to be an arduous process–mainly because of Kadima’s presence in the government. One only has to look at what has gone on between Benjamin Netanyahu and Shaul Mofaz over the Tal Law in the last week to see what will happen concerning authorization of these communities–however, in your humble servant’s opinion, the authorization process is long-overdue and has thankfully begun.
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