Fearing international repercussions and criticism, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, decided to shelve a report prepared by former Supreme Court Judge, Edmond Levy, as the report calls for “legalizing” Israeli settlement outposts in the occupied West Bank as they, allegedly, are “part of the state of Israel’.Israeli daily, Haaretz, reported that the report Netanyahu decided to bury, does not only call for legalizing settlement outposts, but also allows easier expansion of existing “legal” Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. The report was submitted to Netanyahu on June 21.
Netanyahu told several cabinet ministers that “the main issue in this report is the fact that it concluded that the Fourth Geneva convention is not applicable in the occupied West Bank” as the territory, according to Levy, “is not occupied, but is part of Israel”.
Netanyahu is not acknowledging the fact that Israel’s presence in the Palestinian territories is occupation by itself, but he fears that highlighting this report would lead to international controversy as the report contradicts different articles of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a signatory, and other facets of International Law.
Haaretz added that approving this report without acknowledging the section that discusses Israel’s presence in the West Bank, could in a way or another be explained as an Israeli recognition of its presence in the West Bank as an occupying force.
On Tuesday, Netanyahu held a meeting with the so-called Ministerial Committee for Settlement Affairs to discuss matters related to illegal settlement outposts in the West Bank. Haaretz said that Ministers Gilad Erdan and Daniel Hershkowitz demanded Netanyahu to discuss the report but he strongly rejected their demands.
According to the Israeli paper, among other issues, the Ministerial Committee discussed the issue of the illegal settlement of Migron, as 17 settler families filed a petition to the Israeli High Court demanding the state not to evict them as they allegedly “bought the lands from their Palestinian owners”. Israel is still investigating the purchase claim.
The Israeli State Prosecutor’s Office claims that the settlers bought a quarter of one lot, referred to as Lot #23. Also, the Office claims that the settlers fully purchased Lot #2, yet, such a purchase is effectively useless as there is no road access to it.
Haaretz further reported that the Ministers decided to grant a 90-day stay on a demolition order of structures illegally built on Lot #10 as they intend to further investigate “the legal status of the land”.
The Ministers also discussed the legality of a settlement outpost in a building at a Palestinian wholesale market in the Hebron, in the southern part of the West Bank.
The Israeli Peace Now Movement filed a petition demanding that Israel remove the settlers who are illegally squatting in the market, but Israel claims that the area was officially owned by Jews, and that Jordan confiscated the area after considering it as “enemy property”. It was then rented to Arabs, according to Israeli claims. This claim strips property rights of the Palestinian owners of the market area.
The market has been fully closed under Israeli military orders since 2000. All Palestinian shops are closed and the entire street is under the control of Israeli settlers and soldiers.
Following Israel’s occupation of Hebron and the rest of the West Bank in 1967, the army continued to rent the structures to the shopkeepers, but after the second Intifada started in later September 2000, the army ordered the closure of all shops under security claims. Renters’ rights were never revoked, Haaretz said.
Israeli settlers, without any legal ruling, took over the building and considered it part of the Avraham Avinu settlement; the Israeli army decided to evict the settlers but never acted on its decision while Peace Now filed an appeal to the Israeli High Court demanding that it enforce the decision.
Haaretz reported that, despite the fact that the ministers decided to evict the settlers, the Israeli army that maintains the structure decided to subsequently rent it out to the settlers.
The ministers decided that the settlers should be evicted, but the army, as the building’s “custodian”, is supposed to improve and maintain the structure. They also decided it should be rented out to the Jewish community of Hebron, with the army holding the rent money in a trust fund until the building is returned to the Palestinians. The Israeli Court is yet to render a final decision on the matter.
Furthermore, the Ministerial Panel decided to overturn a previous decision to demolish two under-construction buildings in the illegal Beit El Dreinoff settlement.
The buildings in question were erected without construction permits and the land they were built on was confiscated by the Israeli military for “military purposes”; Israeli Human Rights group, Yesh Din, filed a petition to the Israeli High Court demanding the demolition of the buildings.
The government of Benjamin Netanyahu said that the buildings will be removed by April this year, but never acted on its decision and kept requesting numerous stays on the demolition orders that were eventually rendered fruitless as the Ministerial Committee decided that Beit El needs to present a “Master Plan” that would enable the “legalization” of the settlement outpost.
Following its occupation of the West Bank after the 1967 war, Israel legalized numerous illegal settlement outposts erected by the settlers on privately-owned Palestinian lands. Consecutive Israel governments continued to build and legalize settlements.