Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, seemed a little discomfited by the coverage. He was handed the report more than a fortnight earlier but was apparently reluctant to make it public.
Downplaying the Levy report’s significance may prove unwise, however. If Netanyahu is embarrassed, it is only because of the timing of the report’s publication rather than its substance.
It was, after all, Netanyahu himself who established the committee earlier this year to assess the legality of the Jewish settlers’ “outposts,” ostensibly unauthorized by the government, that have spread like wild seeds across the West Bank.
He hand-picked its three members, all diehard supporters of the settlements, and received the verdict he expected — that the settlements are legal. Certainly, Levy’s opinion should have come as no surprise. In 2005 he was the only Israeli high courtjudge to oppose the government’s decision to withdraw the settlers from Gaza.
Legal commentators too have been dismissive of the report. They have concentrated more on Levy’s dubious reasoning than on the report’s political significance.
They have noted that Theodor Meron, the foreign ministry’s legal advisor in 1967, expressly warned the government in the wake of the war that year that settling civilians in the newly seized territory was a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Experts have also pointed to the difficulties Israel will face if it adopts Levy’s position. More