Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday expressed his confidence in the members of the Levy Committee, who authored a report declaring that there is no “occupation” and international law allows Jews to live in Judea and Samaria, as its status was not that of a nation in 1967.
Netanyahu’s remarks came in response to comments made by Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom, who had said that Netanyahu knew exactly who Judge Edmund Levy was when he elected him to head the committee. Shalom raised the ire of leftists who used the comments to accuse Netanyahu of purposely having appointed Levy so that he would legalize the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.
"These are first-class professional people who are doing their work faithfully, impartially and without blemish,” Netanyahu said, according to Channel 2 News. “The committee members were appointed in accordance with all the necessary approvals, including by Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman and Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.”
The Walla! website on Monday quoted remarks made by Shalom during a political convention held last week in the Binyamin community of Neve Tzuf, in which he said, “Regarding the Levy Report, did the Prime Minister not know who Edmund Levy was when he appointed him? So let me tell you: Edmund Levy was the deputy mayor of Ramle and he ran on behalf of the Likud.”
“He was a Likud man, a resident of Ramle, a deputy mayor on behalf of the Likud, a legal prodigy and then Justice Minister Meir Sheetrit appointed him to be a judge based on a deal with Chief Justice Aharon Barak,” added Shalom. “He did not connect to the experience of being a Supreme Court judge, he was a sort of Lone Ranger. So when the Prime Minister appointed him, did he not understand who he is?”
“Obviously this trio was not appointed to provide a report like the Sasson Report,” Shalom said, referring to the 2005 report by Attorney Talia Sasson, a candidate on the leftist Meretz’s Knesset list. Sasson was appointed by then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to author a now-discredited report on outposts in Judea and Samaria.
Shalom’s remarks were met with criticism by the leftist Meretz, Tzipi Livni’s party and the extreme leftist Peace Now organization. On Tuesday, Labor MK Eitan Cabel added his own criticism of Netanyahu over the Levy Report.
"Netanyahu is trying to deceive the public by political machinations,” said Cabel, according to Channel 2. “If this is his approach to issues as important as the future of Judea and Samaria, we are not far from the day when he’ll appoint MK Michael Ben-Ari to head a committee to examine the treatment of the Arabs in Israel and MK Ze’ev Elkin to head committee to examine the principle of separation of powers. Luckily, the State of Israel has judicial authorities that are competent to determine these decisions, and not the prime minister or other persons or bodies appointed on his behalf.”
The Levy Report was presented to Netanyahu this past summer after months of study by Justice Levy and the two other experts.
Netanyahu effectively shelved the report by setting it aside for further study, but with elections coming up, it was reported that he would recommend that the government adopt part of the recommendations.
Netanyahu later gave up on bringing the report’s conclusions for government approval because of objection by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein. Likud MK Ze'ev Elkin subsequently indicated that Netanyahu was interested in bringing the conclusions to a discussion before January's elections. This has yet to happen, however.
There have been calls for Netanyahu to adopt the conclusions of the Levy Report as a response to the Palestinian Authority’s recent unilateral move at the United Nations.