Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his advisers knew very well why they were keeping a low profile on a new report about the legal status of the West Bank. In retrospect, it isn’t certain that Netanyahu would even have appointed the committee, which was convened under pressure from the Likud ministers who wanted something to offer the more right-wing camp of Moshe Feiglin, which represents a significant proportion of the party’s central committee.
When the prime minister’s people read the report they understood that this was explosive material – politically, and even more so, diplomatically. If the report was allowed to dissolve, Netanyahu knew he would have an intifada on his hands – from the settlers and the right-wing ministers in his government. If the report would be adopted and implemented, Netanyahu would be confronted with international condemnation so sharp that its ramifications would be hard to foresee.
Netanyahu’s first public response to the report was general and noncommittal, clear evidence of the degree to which he would be pleased if the report by Justice Edmond Levy would just disappear – like the two most recent reports of former State Comptroller Micha Lindestrauss, which got about 36 hours of newspaper headlines and radio interviews, and that was it.
“I appreciate the quiet work of the committee,” said Netanyahu. “I will bring the report by the Edmond Levy Committee to be debated by the Ministerial Committee for Settlement Affairs on the West Bank and we will decide about it in that forum.”
The part of the report that particularly worries Netanyahu is the determination by the committee that the West Bank is not occupied territory and thus the Fourth Geneva Convention and relevant United Nations resolutions do not apply.
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