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Government Committee ‘fast track’ panel aims to legalize West Bank outposts

Israeli government forms new committee to “address the legal status of West Bank lands.”

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Israel’s justice minister, Ayelet Shaked, formed a committee to “address the legal status of West Bank lands.” In her announcement she noted a provision in the coalition agreement between her Bayit Yehudi party and the Likud according to which such a committee is to be formed and make “fast-track” recommendations within 60 days on the legal status of outposts in Judea and Samaria.

Often committees dealing with such controversial and high-profile issues take months to consider the issues and their conclusions are swept under the rug.

More than half a million Israeli citizens now populate the Jewish settlements in West Bank.

Members of the committee, to be led by Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit, include Agriculture Ministry director-general Shlomo Ben-Eliyahu, Defense Ministry Legal Adviser Ahaz Ben-Ari and Attorney Hagai Vinitzki.

Yesh Din, NGO Volunteers for Human Rights, which opposes Jewish settlements and outposts in Judea and Samaria and regularly litigates on behalf of Palestinians on such issues, accused Shaked of “trying to implement the Levy Report entering through a backdoor.”

late Supreme Court justice Edmond Levy, stated in 2012 that West Bank Jewish settlements were legal under international law and proposed legalizing outposts that were built on state land with at least unofficial government support.

Levy report was an attempt to override a previous 2005 official government report by former State Attorney’s Office prosecutor Talia Sasson, which had concluded that many of the outposts were illegal.

The Levy Report was never adopted due to heavy criticism of the report globally.

Yesh Din said that Shaked sought to do this without the government officially adopting the Levy Report and even though senior jurists in Israel and globally as well as decisions of the Supreme Court reject “the Levy Report’s“ legal interpretations and conclusions.

The organisation added “Even 100 committees will not succeed in fixing the contradiction of an after-the-fact legalization of outposts and neighborhoods which were established amidst continuing violations” of the rule of law.

It accused the government of trying to illegally grab Palestinian land to expand the Jewish settlement enterprise.

Shaked said that “the residents of Judea and Samaria should be free of the constant threat and fear regarding” the legality of their homes and whether the state may evict them.

She emphasized that there is legal disagreement about which West Bank land qualifies as “private land, what kinds of evidence should be required to prove that an area is under private ownership, ” issues she said should be resolved so that people living in disputed areas can have certainty about their status.

Where outposts are built on private Palestinian land, the state and the Supreme Court have sometimes evicted the residents forcibly.

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