In February 2012, the Israeli government appointed a commission, headed by former Supreme Court Justice Levy, to “examine the status of building in Judea and Samaria”—in other words, to examine the legality of settlements, whether authorised by the Israeli government or not, in the West Bank. On 9 July 2012, the Commission’s report was released. The report is in Hebrew, but its conclusions and recommendations have been translated into English by one of the Commission’s members, Alan Baker, and an unofficial translation of its arguments regarding international law has been published on a pro-Israeli US blog.
The reasoning of the Report, such as there is, is a travesty of legal argumentation. It is selective in the issues it chooses to address, and perverse in its interpretation of international law. The arguments employed with regard to the status of the West Bank and legality of the Israeli settlements there are not novel. Indeed, they are well-worn, tired, and have been thoroughly discredited in the past. They contradict established legal opinion, both international and Israeli.
The Commission’s conclusions fall into two categories, one dealing with international law and the other with domestic Israeli law. The Report states:
“Our basic conclusion is that from the point of view of international law, 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 [ie, the West Bank] spanning over decades.
In addition, the provisions of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, regarding transfer of populations, cannot be considered to be applicable and were never intended to apply to the type of settlement activity carried out by Israel in Judea and Samaria.
Therefore, according to International Law, Israelis have the legal right to settle in Judea and Samaria and establishment of settlements cannot, in and of itself, be considered to be illegal.”