Alan Baker, an expert on international law and a member of the committee headed by Judge Edmond Levi measures to regulate building in Judea and Samaria, said at a conference discussing the matter Tuesday night that Israel would be fully in its rights to do so.
"The task of the Levi Committee was to look at the construction situation in Judea and Samaria and make the appropriate recommendations on how to proceed," Baker said at the event sponsored by the Women in Green organization. The recommendation to authorize construction, if carried out in accordance with the law and the planning and zoning requirements in Judea and Samaria made by the committee was a very important one, he said.
Until very recently, the guiding document for governments in Israel had been a 2004 report authored by leftist attorney Talia Sasson, who recommended the dismantling of many new communities, termed "outposts," in Judea and Samaria. Sasson later ran for Knesset on the far-left Meretz party list.
Baker said that much of the trouble relating to these communities was due to a misconception, based on Sasson's report. She had been asked by then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to prepare a report on "unauthorized outposts, but when she produced the report she termed them 'illegal' outposts." and thereby turned anyone who builds there into criminals."
Because of that report, Presidents Bush and Obama also adopted the attitude that the communities were illegal, Baker said. This attitude was mistaken, he claimed. "Not having authorization is not a crime...Our mission was to clarify the situation and make appropriate recommendations."
The committee examined the rights of Israel to build in Judea and Samaria altogether. Leftist groups that appeared before the committee or presented documentation, said Baker, attempted to prove that only Arabs had the right to build on non-privately owned lands in the region, but that claim were rejected by the committee, he said.
"After extensive investigation, we determined that Judea and Samaria were not legally 'occupied.' Even Jordan, whose declaration of sovereignty over the region was never recognized by international organizations like the UN, said Baker, was not a former sovereign Additionally, "building by Israel in Judea and Samaria does not violate the Geneva Convention." And the position held by the UN and the international community is a misinterpretation of the aims of those who drafted the convention.
In contrast, Israel, as the representative of the Jewish people, could claim an historic right to build in Judea and Samaria. "No one can deny this historic right. There are non-legal documents, or treaties, that attribute to the Palestinians sovereign rights to the region."