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