Former IDF Judge Advocate General Avichai Mandelbilt's slated appointment to chair a committee tasked with normalizing threatened Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria has drawn sharp criticism from nationalist leaders and area residents.
During his eight year tenure, Mandebilt, a confidant of Defense Minister Ehud Barak who advocates destroying the communities the committee is intended to legalize, oversaw policies aimed at curbing Jewish land-ownership and construction in Judea and Samaria. Policies considered both discriminatory and partisan by Mandelbilt's critics.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's decision to form a committee to review land-claims and find ways to normalize communities facing destruction Judea and Samaria comes amid outrage over a recent decision by Israel's High Court under president Dorit Benisch declaring all privately owned land in Judea and Samaria to be presumptively Arab irrespective of whether evidence can be provided. The High Court has also refused to review evidence in cases where Jewish land ownership can be proven.
Samaria Regional Council head Gershon Mesika said Netanyahu would have done better to appoint Talia Sasson, the extreme left-wing Meretz MK who authorized the anti-settlement enterprise 'Sasson Report.'
"You might as well appoint Talia Sasson," Mesika said. "The conclusions of this committee will only advance the demolition process. At least [with Sasson] we would save the financial costs and time."
"Appointing the right hand of Israel's most extreme leftists, a man who worked hard put to jail IDF soldiers after Operation Cast Lead - and who received the rank of Major General from Ehud Barak personally - is telling the cat to guard the cream," Mesika said. "If Mandelbilt is appointed to head this commission - its findings have been written in advance."
MK Yariv Levin (Likud), also slammed moves to appoint Mandelbilt to head the committee, "The appointment of Maj. Gen. Mandelblit, who oversaw and approved decrees to restrict - and destroy - settlements in Judea and Samaria is unacceptable."
"Land claims should be examined by a committee with no conflict of interest," Levin added. "It is unthinkable to appoint a man who, to do the job properly, must question his own competence in reviewing his previous orders he gave concerning the demolition of Jewish homes. The committee should be compromised of forensic experts who understand land law, and who have no no prejudice and personal involvement. Only this will prevent further demolitions."
MK Levin also put Prime Minister Binyamin on notice concerning the potential repercussions of such a move: "It could be our ruin, and shakes the foundations of the coalition".
Chairman of IAI employees, MK Haim Katz, whose words carry great weight in the Likud, was also critical of Mandelbilt's appointment.
"Talia Sasson should be running it," Katz said. "If this is how the committee is to be comprised, then it is a shame to waste money on a body whose results are probably known in advance. "We will not tolerate the destruction of the settlements in Israel. "
MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) said of the Mandelbilt appointment, "One might as well appoint a representative of Adalah [a pro-Arab legal action group -Ed.] to this committee, and appoint Judge Goldstone to chair it. If Netanyahu wants to destroy the Jewish settlement enterprise, he should just tell his voters honestly - and not hide behind a 'committee' with a constitutionally distinct leftist agenda."
Chairman of the Shomron Residents' Committee, Benny Katzover, said: "During his tenure, Judge Advocate General Avichai Mandelblit overturned large-swaths of precedent in favor of advice from those seeking to destroy the settlement enterprise and became a loyal apostle of extreme left-wing organizations."
"The appointment of such a person to head this committee is spitting our face. We will not accept this situation in no way," Katzover said.