Tag: Levy Report


Dear Readers:


   Today marks a major moment in the life of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.  Our talented current Publications Editor, Charles Bybelezer, is leaving for Israel. He has been responsible for the unerringly on-topic, wide-ranging, and clearly focused Daily Isranet Briefings you have received in recent years (as well as for our ISRAFAX quarterly print journal and annual Commemorative Book).


   Charles is taking up a new position as an editorial staff writer with the Jerusalem Post. This is a wonderful and richly deserved opportunity for Charles, an immensely promising and eloquent young writer. Widely-read, analytically incisive, and Jewishly learned, he is, as a committed Zionist, an ardent supporter of our democratic, Jewish state.


   All of us at CIJR are delighted for him, and know he is going to be a major resource at the Jerusalem Post and an outstanding figure in the centrally important field of intelligent, informed and hard-hitting Israel advocacy.


   And, even as Charles leaves, we are also delighted to welcome our new Publications Editor, Ber Lazarus. Trained as a sociologist, with a creative career in social work, and an accomplished artist as well, he is also an able websight designer and blogger.


   Ber is an untiring Israel advocate, and an effective pro-Israel writer in his own right.  Not least, he is also an activist, most recently in support of the brave St. Denis Street merchants in Montreal fighting a vicious boycott campaign against Israeli-made products.


   As a proudly pro-Israel academic research center now in its twenty-fifth year, CIJR early recognized that one of its key functions should be the training of able, informed and highly motivated staff. We are proud to have helped shape Israel advocates who can think, write, and speak clearly and forcefully. 


   The war being waged today in the media, on campuses, and in   international institutions seeks to delegitimate Israel. This is a key front in the ongoing campaign against the Jewish state, a war of ideas which,  given the approaching Iranian nuclear weapon, we must win.


   We know that Charles, in Israel, and Ber, in Canada, will be making solid contributions to this crucially important goal.  CIJR wishes all the best to Charles, with whom we shall remain in close touch, and welcomes Ber, whom we know will also be a major asset to CIJR and to the Jewish people  



Prof. Frederick Krantz, Director
Canadian Institute for Jewish Research,

Editor, Daily Isranet Briefing


Barry Rubin
Jerusalem Post, July 29, 2012


“Can’t anybody here play this game?”—Casey Stengel, New York Mets’ manager.

Stengel’s complaint is the precise description of Israeli politics nowadays. To a remarkable extent—and this has nothing to do with his views or policies—Binyamin Netanyahu is the only functioning politician in Israel today. No wonder he is prime minister, will finish his current term, and almost certainly be reelected in 2013.


Consider the alternatives.


The number one such option is Shaul Mofaz who is head of Kadima. Mofaz was a competent general but is a dreadful politician. He may be the least charismatic man I’ve ever met. Tzipi Livni, his predecessor, was a disaster as leader of the self-described centrist party.…


• Although her party had one seat more than Netanyahu’s in the 2009 election, Livni bungled the chance for some kind of coalition or rotation agreement. True, Netanyahu held the upper hand and had no incentive to give up much but that was all the more reason for her to offer him a good enough deal so she wouldn’t be totally thrown into fruitless opposition.


• As leader of the opposition, Livni was a total failure, never providing a good counter to Netanyahu’s positions and showing signs of personal panic that shocked people. Even the anti-Netanyahu media couldn’t rally behind her.…


Mofaz’s record is quite bad, too. In fact, as one Israeli joke puts it, in terms of damage, Mofaz accomplished in three months what it took Livni 18 months to do. He said he would never leave Likud for Kadima, and then did so a few hours later. He said he wouldn’t join Netanyahu’s coalition, then he did, and then he announced he was leaving not too much later over the issue of drafting yeshiva students.…


Then there’s the Left.


The Labor Party has split, with the smaller, more national security-oriented faction led by Defense Minister Ehud Barak sticking with Netanyahu’s coalition. That group should also disappear in the next election.



The remaining party has veered to the Left and put the priority on domestic social issues. That might well revive the party—especially with the defection of lots of Kadima voters—but it won’t win them an election. The party is now led by Shelly Yechimovich, whose career experience consists of having been a radio journalist and has never been a cabinet member.


Of course there were social protests in Israel last year about high prices for some consumer goods and for apartments. These are genuine problems. But these are the result of economic policies that also brought Israel one of the best records of any developed country in the world during the international recession.


And the fallout from the Arab Spring puts national security issues front and center once again.


Along with this has been the collapse of the social protests. Last year the movement could mobilize hundreds of thousands—though the media exaggerated its size—and had broad public sympathy across the political spectrum.


Now it is reduced to a few thousand at most. Why? Because the loony leftists ousted the moderate leadership which had some realistic proposed solutions.…


There are three key factors necessary to understand contemporary Israeli politics.


First, Netanyahu is not seen by the electorate generally as being right-wing and hawkish but as being centrist. He has successfully been developing this posture now for about 15 years without much of the Western media appearing to notice.


Second, Israelis don’t really see the likelihood that different policies are going to make lots of Arabs and Muslims love Israel, or bring peace with the Palestinians or end the vilification of Israel in the Left. All of those things were attempted by means of Israel taking high risks and making big concessions during the 1992-2000 period. Israelis remember—even if others don’t—that this strategy doesn’t work.


Third, there are no other politicians who are attractive as potential prime ministers.


We now know that US President Barack Obama’s administration thought that he was going to overturn Netanyahu and bring Livni to power on a platform of giving up a lot more to the Palestinians on the hope that this would bring peace. The editorial pages of American newspapers and alleged experts still advocate this basic strategy.


They couldn’t possibly be less connected to reality.



Jerusalem Post, July 23, 2012


The latest in a series of political crises afflicting Kadima has made the problems of being a centrist party in our political system abundantly clear.


The two veteran parties, the Likud and Labor, to a large extent like the Republicans and the Democrats in the US represent the two mainstream positions on cardinal issues such as security and socioeconomics.


The ideological room between them is simply too narrow and insubstantial to allow for a third party.


Disingenuous attempts have been made—particularly by Yair Lapid, head of the next up-and-coming superfluous centrist party, Yesh Atid—to paint Labor chairwoman Shelly Yechimovich as a radical socialist who is opposed to free market enterprise, while Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been portrayed as a heartless neoconservative.


But in reality the differences between Yechimovich’s social-democratic platform and Netanyahu’s more conservative stance are not so marked, and are similar to the differences that split Democrats and Republicans. Kadima has never fully articulated a distinct socioeconomic platform, while the nuances distinguishing Lapid’s socioeconomic platform from Yechimovich’s do not justify the creation of a separate party.


On security issues, Kadima has not brought to the political discourse any new ideas either. Kadima supporters such as Ariel Sharon’s confidant and adviser Dov Weissglas, claim that Sharon created the party because he felt shackled by the Likud’s ideological constraints. After implementation of the pullout from the Gaza Strip and parts of northern Samaria in 2005, Sharon was fast losing support within the Likud, though his popularity soared among the general public. This was only natural since the sort of unilateral dismantling of Jewish settlements—without receiving any Palestinian commitments—was diametrically opposed to the Likud’s ideology.


Indeed, it was Labor’s Amram Mitzna—not Sharon—who led his party into the 2003 national elections on a platform of unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. If implementation of the disengagement was so important to Sharon, he could have returned to Labor, where he began his political career.


To this day Kadima’s stance on security is indistinguishable from Labor’s. Chairman Shaul Mofaz’s peace proposal—which calls for the immediate establishment of an independent, unarmed Palestinian state in part of the West Bank and Gaza and entering negotiations with Hamas, if the terrorist organization wins another Palestinian election—could easily be adopted by Labor.


Centrist parties, such as David Ben-Gurion’s Rafi, Yigael Yadin’s Democratic Movement for Change, Avigdor Kahalani’s Third Way, and Yitzhak Mordechai and Amnon Lipkin Shahak’s Center Party, never represented substantial political or ideological positions not given expression in either the Likud or Labor.…History has shown that centrist parties are not only superfluous, they are detrimental to political stability.


Over the past few decades the size of the two largest political parties has steadily decreased from around 40 MKs on average to fewer than 30, in large part due to the creation of various short-lived centrist parties. Election reforms such as the raising of the 2-percent threshold for entry to the Knesset and the institution of regional elections for some Knesset seats would go a long way toward improving political stability.


But so would a good dose of humility. And it might even be in politicians’ best interests to cooperate. A recent survey found that a Center-Left party (Labor) led by Yechimovich, Lapid and Tzipi Livni would garner 40 Knesset seats.


A Knesset resting on two strong political parties—one Center-Left and one Center-Right—would foster a more stable political environment while at the same time give expression to two clear political agendas. With talk of early elections in the air, serious thought should be given to taking the steps necessary to make a quasi-two-party system a reality.


Tovah Lazaroff

Jerusalem Post, July 23, 2012


Attorney Alan Baker has defended the government-initiated report he co-authored that calls to authorize West Bank outposts.


In a letter to the Israel Policy Forum [see “Link” below—Ed.] last week, former Foreign Ministry legal adviser Baker said the so-called Levy report does not close the door to a Palestinian state, and offers Israelis and Palestinians pragmatic solutions to land dispute issues.



Earlier this month, the New York-based forum sent a letter [see “Link” below—Ed.] to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, urging him to reject the report on the outposts penned by a three-member legal panel led by former Supreme Court justice Edmond Levy. The other two panel members were Baker and former Tel Aviv District Court deputy president Tehiya Shapira.


More than 40 US Jewish leaders signed the letter, stating they were “deeply concerned” by the report, which said that under international law Israel did not occupy the West Bank and had a legal right to build settlements there. The US Jewish leaders said they were concerned that government approval of the report would “place the two-state solution, and the prestige of Israel as a democratic member of the international community, in peril.”…


In his letter to the Israel Policy Forum, Baker said he did not believe the US Jewish leaders had read his report. Had they done so, he said, they would not have warned that authorization of the document imperiled a two-state solution.


The report’s affirmation of Israel’s legal and historic rights to the West Bank “is not different from Israel’s policy statements over the years, including speeches by all of Israel’s leaders and ambassadors in the UN, as well as in official policy documents issued over the years by Israel’s Foreign Ministry,” Baker wrote. There is nothing in the report that imperils the two-state solution, he said, and added, “The opposite is in fact the case.”


The report stated that despite Israel’s legal and historic claim to sovereignty over the area, consecutive Israeli governments have preferred to negotiate with the Palestinians to find a solution to sovereignty issues in the West Bank. “This is completely compatible with the address by Prime Minister Netanyahu to the US Congress last May,” Baker wrote.


Lastly, he noted that the document, released earlier this month, offers pragmatic solutions to issues of outpost authorization and land disputes with Palestinians. It suggests the creation of a civilian court to adjudicate such disputes. “The report stresses the need to ensure that genuine land-ownership rights of the local Palestinian population are respected by all related authorities and individuals,” Baker said.


“Without in any way doubting the deep commitment of all the signatories to Israel’s well-being as a Jewish and democratic state, it is to be regretted that they have permitted themselves to be drawn so hastily into criticizing the Levy report, without justification,” Baker said….




In January, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu commissioned the Levy Committee to investigate the legal status of Judea and Samaria (West Bank).


The three-member team, headed by former Israeli Supreme Court Justice Edmund Levy and comprising retired Tel Aviv District Court Judge Tehiya Shapira along with international law expert Dr. Alan Baker, this week delivered its findings in the form of an 89-page Report to the government. Though not released to the public, its contents already are widely known.


Specifically, the Committee found that Israeli “settlements”—and the construction thereof and therein—are legal under international law. The Report concluded that the Fourth Geneva Convention, which relates “to all cases of partial or total occupation of the territory of a High Contracting Party,” does not apply to Judea and Samaria since “Israel does not meet the criteria of ‘military occupation’…[as] no other legal entity has ever had its sovereignty over the area cemented under international law.”


Therefore, the panel recommended that Israel devise ways to legalize contested settlements and outposts and ease land acquisition and zoning protocols for Jews in the region.


Not surprisingly—as the Committee’s findings put to rest once and for all the claim that Israel is a “belligerent occupier”—Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, denounced the Report, saying, “The Israeli presence on Palestinian land, including East Jerusalem, is rejected and illegal.” He then reiterated the longstanding Palestinian demand—obstacle to peace?—that a future “Palestine” be Judenrein: “Israel will not have the right to exist in the Palestinian Territory.”


True to form, Israel’s purported ally in the White House (recall his earlier “unwavering” US support for Israel) assumed the Palestinian narrative by directing State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell to issue the following statement: “Obviously, we’ve seen the reports that an Israeli government-appointed panel has recommended legalizing dozens of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, but we do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity, and we oppose any effort to legalize settlement outposts.”


Likewise, the New York Times’ editorial board had this to say: “Palestinian hopes for an independent state are growing dimmer all the time. Israel is pushing ahead with new settlements in the West Bank, and now comes a potentially disastrous blow.” And just how big of a blow? The Levy Report is “bad law, bad policy and bad politics,” the ramifications of which are “damaging to Israel’s security and regional peace.” For good measure, the Times’ editors included their own low-blow: Israel’s adoption of the Report will divert “attention from Iran.” The implicit message to Israel: continue building settlements and you will be forced to go it alone when the time comes to stop the genocidal Mullahs’ nuclear program.


The Times is, of course, notorious for being a mouthpiece of the Obama administration.


Apparently, the pursuit of truth—the elevation to an ideal of the promotion of fact over fiction, a fundamental attribute of democratic societies—no longer “occupies” a central role in the American enterprise. Better to plead ignorance in order to forge preferred, albeit false, realities. Case in point is the Jewish people’s alleged “illegal occupation” of lands designated to it by the Balfour Declaration and the British Mandate (not to mention the Bible). By fostering this false-truth the US effectively is choosing sides, the path of least of resistance to dealing with the Arab/Islamic world.


In other words, denying the Jewish people’s rights to its land serves a political purpose, a supposed American interest.


Yet there is hope. For after 2000 years of state-less struggle once again there exists a country concerned primarily with Jewish political self-determination. The Zionist endeavour was conceived—and realized through blood and treasure—for the purpose of empowering an Israeli government, in the interest of the Jewish people, to oppose falsity. In this instance, it could do so by accepting as irrefutable fact the findings of the Levy Report, and having the conviction to implement whichever of its proposals are deemed in the national interest.


The widespread opposition to fact does not negate truth. Rather, it simply makes principled action more difficult. The time has come for Israel to make difficult decisions to ensure that truth—and the Jewish people and Jewish State—prevail.—Charles Bybelezer, CIJR Publications Chairman.



Jerusalem Post, July 9, 2012

After nearly six months of investigations, three legal experts known colloquially as “the outpost committee”—a government-appointed advisory body—submitted some clear-cut conclusions.

For instance, the trio—former Supreme Court justice Edmond Levy, former Foreign Ministry legal adviser Alan Baker and former deputy president of the Tel Aviv District Court Tehiya Shapira—found that the hundreds of thousands of patriotic, productive Israeli citizens living in Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights are not criminals, as many of Israel’s adversaries—and allies—would argue.

They also found that the 45-year-old settlement project, which has reunited the Jewish people to land resonating with Jewish history dating back thousands of years, cannot in any way be construed as an international crime.

The trio’s argument, backed up by their intimate knowledge of international law, is based on a few simple facts.

First, the British Mandate, which came into effect in September 1922 after being ratified by the League of Nations, called for the creation of “a national home for the Jewish people” in the territory west of the Jordan River, including Judea and Samaria.

Second, the 1947 UN Partition Plan for Palestine never replaced the British Mandate as intended. It was accepted by the Jewish community in Palestine represented by the Jewish Agency, but was rejected by both the Palestinian Arab Higher Committee and by the states belonging to the Arab League.

Third, in the wake of Israel’s War of Independence, when first local Palestinian militias and later the combined armies of Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon tried but failed to snuff out the Jewish state. Jordan seized control of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and parts of Jerusalem, but its sovereignty over these areas was never recognized by the international community.

Fourth, after the Six Day War, when once again the combined armies of Egypt, Syria and Jordan, with the help of numerous other countries and organizations—including the PLO—tried and failed to wipe Israel off the map, Israel found itself in control of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, along with the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights.

In 1988, Jordan ceded its claims to the West Bank to the PLO. But these so-called claims were less substantial than Israel’s for a number of reasons. First, the British Mandate never recognized Jordan’s right to the land west of the Jordan River. Also, Jordan seized the territory in an aggressive offensive against the fledgling Jewish state. And the newly created Jordanian state—essentially a British construction—had absolutely no historical ties to Judea and Samaria, while for Jews, it is the cradle of Jewish civilization and statehood from the biblical era.

Far from “occupied,” the status of Judea and Samaria—if one is being generous with regard to Palestinian demands—can at best be described as sui generis. The territory enjoys a unique status in international law as land that has never been unequivocally set aside for a specific people by the international community. Even UN Resolution 242, which introduced the “land-for-peace” formula, calls on Israel to withdraw from “territories” in exchange for peace with its neighbors, but not all territories.

It was clear to the international community immediately after the Six Day War that Israel would retain an undetermined portion of Judea, Samaria and Gaza. (Israel has since magnanimously ceded the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians.) Unfortunately, the outpost committee’s conclusions are not so obvious to everyone. Just three months ago, for instance, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in response to moves by Israel to legalize outposts, declared that all settlement activity was “illegal.” Ban’s position reflected the general perception of most of the international community and certain segments of the Israeli Left.

Unsurprisingly, Levy, Baker and Shapira might not succeed in convincing Israel’s detractors that settlements are legal and the men, women and children who populate them are law-abiding citizens by any criterion. But at least the plain truth has now been reiterated—for the record. And it should be officially recognized as such by the government.

Tzipi Hotovely

Jerusalem Post, July 11, 2012

Several historical opportunities stand before the Netanyahu government. The issue of enlistment is one, but no less important is the opportunity to completely overhaul the management of Judea and Samaria.

The Levy Report established de facto that it is no longer possible to treat the legitimate settlement of Judea and Samaria as a misbegotten stepchild, a wild west twilight zone in which the Jordanian and Ottoman registries are recorded willy-nilly while the secretive veil of the Defense Ministry hovers above, ruling the territory through the civil administration.

After almost half a century of settlement in Judea and Samaria, it is impossible to continue building without a systematic and reliable Israeli land registry. Rather than depend on the goodwill of the defense minister, who can currently prevent the building of public institutions and new neighborhoods with his signature, it is imperative to restore responsibility to the government so that it can build according to its desire….and not be blocked due to political factors unrelated to land purchases.

The legal battle is the last stronghold of the leftists, who understand they cannot simply overrule the majority of the public who support the settlement enterprise. When the public votes the Likud into power, it expresses its desire to continue the pioneering and Zionist enterprise in Judea and Samaria. We cannot allow “Peace Now” the right to control the building process. This responsibility is entrusted to the government alone.

However, without a systematic registry, residents time and again fall victim to the legal traps set by the Left’s attorneys. The latter fight against the settlements by means of the Jordanian registry, mostly fictitious, allowing them to falsely claim ownership in the name of petitioners who never knew they were the proprietors and never claimed ownership for over 40 years.

First of all, it is essential to know the facts: the territories of Judea and Samaria are mostly uninhabited. Only 10 percent has been used for building (including the Palestinian cities of Ramallah…and Shechem, and the Jewish cities of Ma’aleh Adumim, Ariel and Kiryat Arba). 90% of the territory is empty. Among the built-up portions, only 3% of the building is Jewish.…

The Levy Report did not present anything new in saying Judea and Samaria are not occupied territory according to international law. One need not be a renowned historian or senior jurist to recall the simple fact that the lands of Judea and Samaria returned to the Jewish people after a defensive war, or that there was never a Palestinian state from which the territories could have been taken.

There is also nothing new about the government’s ability to build settlements in Judea and Samaria. After all, since the Supreme Court tried to prevent the construction of Elon Moreh, it is clear to all that the decision whether or not to build is a political one, whose unique red line is the prohibition regarding building on private Palestinian land.

Nonetheless, an official government decision to adopt the Levy Report will require a significant struggle to change the rules of the game.… Israeli building laws and regulations [should] be applied in Judea and Samaria. This is the key to creating a long-term change that will eventually lead to the complete application of Israeli law over Judea and Samaria.

For those that value international opinion, we would remind them that not a single embassy graces Jerusalem. Yes, not even the western part of the city. Does this mean we should be prepared to relinquish sovereignty over our capital city? David Ben-Gurion already decided this matter in 1949 when he chose to move the Knesset to Jerusalem. Begin decided when he passed the law annexing the Golan Heights.

Now it is our turn to decide.

(Tzipi Hotovely is a Likud Member of Israel’s Knesset.)

Jonathan S. Tobin

Contentions, July 9, 2012

The release of a report on the legality of Israel’s presence in the West Bank commissioned by Prime Minister Netanyahu is being widely dismissed by critics of his government as well as those of the Jewish state. Though its findings that Jews have the right to live in the territories and that Israel’s presence there does not fit the traditional definition of a military occupation are solidly based in international law, no one should expect the left to respect the report.… Nor should we be surprised if the international community ignores it. Opposition to the settlements is so deeply entrenched that there is no argument, no matter how grounded in logic or justice, that would persuade those committed to the myth settlements are the only obstacle to peace, that they are not illegal.…

But while we expect this effort to be trashed, those horrified by the fact that Israel is willing to assert that it has rights in the West Bank that are as worthy of respect as those of the Arabs are not just wrong about the legal arguments. Their assumption that a belief in the settlements’ legality makes a peace deal impossible is equally mistaken. Just because Israel has rights in the West Bank doesn’t mean it need necessarily exercise them on every inch of the territory. The assertion of Jewish rights merely means Israel has a leg to stand on when negotiating the permanent status of the West Bank and Jerusalem. Far from that rendering peace unlikely, it ought to give Palestinians an incentive to come to the table and work out a deal that will give them as much of the territory as they can get. The obstacle to peace is the Palestinian belief that the Jewish presence throughout the country—including pre-1967 Israel—is illegitimate.

As the new report pointed out, the international conventions prohibiting the movement of people into occupied territory has no application in the West Bank, as it forms part of the League of Nations Palestinian Mandate that was established to facilitate the creation of a national home for the Jews. Far from the West Bank being “stolen” from the Palestinians, it was simply unallocated territory from the former Ottoman Empire where Jews had legal rights as powerful as those of the Arabs. Nor do the postwar resolutions formed in response to Nazi policies in Eastern Europe that are frequently cited by settlement foes apply to Israel’s very different policies.

The widespread interpretation of this report is that it will allow Netanyahu to avoid demolishing those settlement outposts that were not previously authorized by the government. But any outpost that was built on land owned by Arabs can still be uprooted by legal action, as was the case with the Ulpana neighborhood of Beit El.

The fallacy here is not just that the effort to delegitimize the Jewish presence in the West Bank and Jerusalem is not a correct interpretation of international law. It is just as important to note that once Israel’s rights are confirmed, it doesn’t obligate Netanyahu or any of his successors to hold onto all of the land. The report’s recommendations that limits on growth in existing settlements should be lifted likewise doesn’t mean that a peace deal can’t be reached. Most of the settlements would be retained even in proposals put forward by the Jewish left.… What it does do is force the Palestinians to understand that if they want peace, they must compromise.

But that is something they won’t do on the West Bank for the same reason they are unwilling to recognize Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn. It is that reluctance to give up their opposition to Jewish sovereignty even inside the Green Line that prevents peace.… So long as the Palestinians are encouraged to believe they can uproot all of the Jews, including those living in the Jewish settlement built on the outskirts of Jaffa a century ago that is now known as Tel Aviv, it won’t matter what the legal scholars say about any of this.