July 9, 2012
Press release – for immediate publication
Attorney Michael Sfard, Yesh Din’s Legal Advsior:
The Levy Committee was Conceived in Sin to Legalize a Crime, and Has Accomplished its Mission
- There are basic errors in the committee's conclusions that contradict Israeli and international law
- The committee's conclusions will detract from the little protection afforded to Palestinian rights in the West Bank
- Adoption of the committee's recommendations will legalize land theft and complicate Israel's relations with the entire world
- Yesh Din refused to appear before the committee because its purpose was to bypass the State Attorney's Office, and its very establishment violates the principles of the rule of law. Yesh Din will present a legal opinion to the Attorney General.
Following the publication of the conclusions of the Edmund Levy Committee, Attorney Michael Sfard, the legal advisor to the human rights organization Yesh Din, said today: "The Levy Committee was conceived in sin to legalize a crime, and it has fully accomplished its mission. Its report is not a legal report but an ideological report that ignores the basic principles of the rule of law. The members of the Levy Committee apparently fell down the rabbit hole, and their report was written in Wonderland, governed by the laws of absurdity: there is no occupation, there are no illegal outposts and there is apparently no Palestinian people either. To that we must say in the words of Alice: ‘This is the silliest tea party I have ever been to.’”
Attorney Sfard explained that the committee's conclusions suffered from elementary errors: "For example, the committee's ruling that the government's conduct ought to be viewed as consent to establishing the outposts is no less than embarrassing. According to law, the Government of Israel expresses its consent to establish settlements solely by explicit decisions of its plenum or by a committee it authorizes to do so. The Levy Committee's suggestion to view illegal statements or actions by various ministers as government consent undermines the principles of the rule of law and good governance."
As for the determination that Israel is not occupying the West Bank, Sfard says that "the members of the Levy Committee are living in ‘La La Land.’ Israel occupied the West Bank by armed force and even though Jordan ceded the territory, the international community, via its binding resolutions (such as the Partition Resolution and many others) has designated it for a Palestinian state. Therefore, Israeli rule of the territory is a rule of occupation as long as there has been no agreement otherwise between the parties."
Adoption of the committee's recommendations would lead to widespread land theft and complicate Israel's relations with the rest of the world. The committee's recommendations are a targeted assassination of the rule of law and, consequently, of the protection of the rights of Palestinians in the occupied territories.
From the outset, Yesh Din refused to appear before the committee, because it was established with the goal of bypassing the Attorney General and the State Attorney’s Office, and, accordingly, the organization's position was that the committee's formation was itself a violation of the principles of the rule of law. In a letter sent to the committee upon its establishment, and signed by Yesh Din's Public Council, which includes several former senior officials of the State Attorney’s Office: Michael Ben Yair (the former Attorney General), Talia Sasson (the author of the Sasson Report on the unauthorized outposts), and Yehudit Karp (the former Deputy Attorney General), Yair Rotlevy, Chair of Yesh Din’s Public Council, emphasized that the Attorney General is the sole authority that is supposed to advise the Government of Israel on legal matters.
“The leaders of the State were displeased with the advice they received from the Attorney General,” the letter stated, “and set out to seek advice from an external source. And thus, in the search for advice to bypass that of the Attorney General, the committee was conceived. The committee was conceived in sin and is contrary to the rule of law and the status of the head of law enforcement in Israel – the Attorney General. Accordingly, Yesh Din, which has devoted itself to the struggle to defend human rights by strengthening the rule of law, cannot lend its hand to a process that is essentially an act of defiance against the authority responsible for law enforcement.”
Yesh Din will present the Attorney General, the sole authorized interpreter of the law for the Government of Israel, with the organization's opinion on the issue of the unauthorized outposts, before he decides how to act on the Levy Committee's recommendations.