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Haaretz - Lawyer who worked for outposts to sit on Israeli government panel to legalize them

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  • Paul
    Haaretz - Tue, January 31, 2012 • Published 02:00 31.01.12 • Latest update 02:00 31.01.12 Lawyer who worked for outposts to sit on Israeli government
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 31, 2012
      Haaretz - Tue, January 31, 2012

      • Published 02:00 31.01.12
      • Latest update 02:00 31.01.12
      Lawyer who worked for outposts to sit on Israeli government panel to
      legalize them
      Alan Baker to be member of committee which 'will examine real estate
      issues in the West Bank,' Prime Minister's Bureau announces.
      By Chaim Levinson


      A lawyer appointed to serve on a government committee seeking ways to
      legalize illegal settlement outposts was on the payroll of a settlers'
      organization advocating such legalization until nine days ago.

      On Monday, the Prime Minister's Bureau announced the members of the
      panel, which "will examine real estate issues in the West Bank": former
      Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy, chairman; retired Judge Tchia
      Shapira, the daughter of former Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren; and attorney
      Alan Baker, who formerly served both as legal advisor to the Foreign
      Ministry and as Israeli ambassador to Canada. Today, Baker - himself a
      resident of the settlement of Har Adar - runs a small law firm
      specializing in international law.

      Baker's firm was recently hired by an organization working to legalize
      the outposts, which was set up by MK Uri Ariel (National Union ) and
      Nachi Eyal, secretary general of Tekuma, one of the parties that ran
      jointly on the National Union slate. And just nine days ago, Baker and
      attorney Harel Arnon issued a legal opinion on the issue of abandoned
      property in the territories - an issue with direct bearing on Migron,
      one of the largest of the illegal outposts, which is currently slated
      for demolition on orders of the High Court of Justice.

      Migron is built on land registered to Palestinian owners. But the
      settlers claim that even if this registration is valid, the owners have
      left the West Bank and relocated to enemy countries, turning their land
      into "abandoned property" that ought to be managed by Israel's Civil
      Administration in the territories.

      A legal opinion written by the Justice Ministry 20 years ago states that
      abandoned land cannot be used to build new settlements. But the
      Baker-Arnon opinion argues that the Civil Administration is authorized
      to lease such land to settlers.

      At Monday's Likud faction meeting, MK Tzipi Hotovely gave a copy of the
      opinion to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who promised to read it.

      The Prime Minister's Office said in response that Baker's appointment,
      like those of the other committee members, would be approved only after
      he signs an agreement on preventing conflicts of interest. Baker could
      not be reached for comment.

      Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has ruled that the new committee
      cannot discuss outposts built on private Palestinian land, nor can it
      discuss any outpost whose demolition has already been ordered by the
      High Court. Whether the panel will be able circumvent these orders in
      order to put Migron on the agenda remains unclear.

      However, it is certain to address the issue of settlements and outposts
      built without permits on land that isn't privately owned. Currently,
      even the slightest violation of the building code renders an outpost
      illegal. The committee is expected to create an intermediate category
      for outposts that have obtained some but not all of the necessary permits.

      It will also discuss issues such as abandoned property, criteria for
      approving new settlements and takeovers of agricultural land.

      Meanwhile, Migron announced on Monday that it has appointed attorney
      Jacob Weinroth to represent it in talks with Minister without Portfolio
      Benny Begin on ways of legalizing the outpost. Begin has proposed moving
      the entire outpost to a nearby tract of land that isn't privately owned.

      Migron settlers are also planning to wage a legal battle against illegal
      Bedouin construction in the Negev, arguing that if their outpost must be
      demolished, so must illegal Bedouin buildings. The Regavim organization,
      which is working with Migron on the issue, plans to flood the courts
      with petitions against various Bedouin developments.
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