He is the Speaker of the Knesset, enjoying its best seat. Nobody blocks his view up there. He is the first one to get the tea in the morning and always, always gets freshly baked cookies; the stale ones go to the opposition. He even gets daily personal updates from the chefs, those indefatigable conspirators. He is such an eminent figure, that if the President of the State doesn’t feel good, he replaces him. A former lawyer of the Warring Family, he is nowadays a proud member of the Likud. Reuven Rivlin is his name. On October 30, 2012, he met with the leaders of the settlers, among them Gershon Mesika, Head of the Shomron Regional Council. During the encounter, which included a tour through prominent settlements, Rivlin opened his campaign to the upcoming elections by throwing a bombshell. He proposed that the government silently adopt the Report on the Legal Status of Building in Judea and Samaria published on July 9, 2012, by retired Justice Edmond Levy. In other words, he wants Israeli law to be imposed in the West Bank. Even this phrasing is too soft. He proposed the annexation of the West Bank without announcing it by a formal law, in contrast to the done with the Golan Heights.
Reuven Rivlin (right) and Friends
The Edmond Levy Report
The Levy Committee was headed by Supreme Court Justice (Ret.) Edmond Levy; he is the son of prominent Jewish-Iraqi Herut members and openly endorses the ideology of this party. Herut (Freedom) was the party led by Menachem Begin; it became Likud in 1973. Netanyahu’s government set up a committee led by one of its own, as an answer to the 2005 Sasson Report, which had ruled 120 settlements and outposts as illegal under Israeli law. Unlawfulness in the West Bank has various layers. The international community considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegal under international law, but the Israeli government disputes this. The international community considers Israeli settlements a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention’s prohibition on the transfer of an occupying power’s civilian population into occupied territory. Thus, they are illegal under international law. Israel disputes that the Fourth Geneva Convention applies to the Palestinian territories as they had not been legally held by a sovereign prior to Israel taking control of them. This view has been rejected by the International Court of Justice and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The vast majority of West Bank settlements are in between these definitions; they are considered illegal by the entire world, but legal by the Israeli government. However, sometimes they are considered unlawful even by the Israeli government. The Edmond Levy Report produced by the abovementioned committee, expectedly recommended changing this.
The Levy Committee ruled that the State must devise ways to legalize contested settlements and outposts in the West Bank. It recommends easing land acquisition and zoning protocols for Jews residing in the area. This is crucial since many of the purchases are highly questionable. For example, in Migron, most of the land occupied by the outpost belongs to several Palestinian families living in the nearby villages of Burqa and Deir Dibwan. The Associated Press discovered in 2008 that Abd Allatif Hassan Sumarin, who supposedly sold a plot of land to the Binyamin Regional Council owned Al Wattan Ltd in 2004, had been dead since 1961. A regime sanctioning such crimes renders itself illegitimate. Since its publication, nothing has been done with the report since implementing it means the annexation of the West Bank. Netanyahu’s government is unlikely to survive the event.
Most Israelis consider Settlers as more extremists and damaging than the IDF | Caricature by Shay Charka
Aware of the report's sensitivities, on November 1, Netanyahu has still to sign it; thus, the document and its conclusions are not official policy. Rivlin looks ahead to the Likud primaries and the general elections. In a reality where the secular-Jewish segment of the electorate is consolidating rightwards, his best chance of returning to a post as minister in the next government is ingratiating himself with the settlers. For sure, he won’t be the only one to do that, but he was the first among the senior members of the Knesset. His position is significant because there is a fair chance that it will become the official policy if the expanded Likud strengthens its position in the next Knesset. Thus, the way this lawyer treats the rule of law is terrifying.
Graffiti “nekama” – “revenge” written in Hebrew on a Palestinian house
During the meeting with the settlers, he said that the report should not be officially adopted “because then we will bring the others [the international community] to stand up against us and demand not only the annulment of the report but also the dismantlement of the settlements.” This is an intriguing approach for a lawyer, especially considering the troubling way he continued his argumentation. “It will be correct for the government to look at the report and act according to it, without officially adopting it or announcing this to the people and the world.” Astonished settlers applauded this argument in favor of the government acting according to secret and illegitimate directives. Supporting Israel’s expansionist policy, Rivlin explained why Netanyahu didn’t sign the report: “The Israeli government is in a tough position between holding the Entire Land of Israel ideology and pressures from abroad.” With the radicalization of their extremist policies, Rivlin and Netanyahu may find themselves winning the upcoming elections only to lose their government in the subsequent war.