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Israel astounded international observers this week as former Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy announced in effect: "Israel never occupied nobody!" Imagine a President Romney asking Justice Scalia to provide a definitive interpretation of the Obamacare decision. The results could hardly be more unsurprising.
Fox, meet chicken coop. Chicken coop, meet fox. With Netanyahu assembling / stacking this committee of like-minded thinkers to come up with a way to prove their settlements were legal, they creatively fell back on familiar ground: the West Bank was already Israel's so they could build wherever they want anyway.
Of course it's familiar ground - this contention has been refuted numerous times by Israeli and International courts since 1967, and Israel's actions and statements towards the West Bank as an occupied territory undercuts that contention, but never we mind: Netanyahu's team has Solomaic wisdom to back it up.
That wisdom would include rights to the territory existing thousands of years (ironically ignoring an absence much longer than Jordan's, which absence and "neglect" is the basis for this latest bid for "land-up-for-grabs"/"finders keepers losers weepers").
It also includes the wisdom of splitting the baby while not splitting the baby - "not an occupation - but not Israeli-managed territory", half-fish/half-fowl?. Netanyahu carefully not accepting the report yet, even as Defense (IDF) started implementing new rules.
What's the problem? Well, if this is really Israeli land and not occupied territory, then Israeli has been denying its own Palestinian citizens - a majority of say 2.5 million - voting and human rights since 1967, uh, 45 years.
Not to worry - based on numerous comments in a few of the nation's right-wing publications, citizenship is "earned", not granted. (Unless you're a Jew going through aliyah in which case it's immediate). The implied threat is that as soon as this "no occupation" theory is accepted, most Palestinians will find themselves declared non-citizens, so that it will be the Palestinians who are building or breathing illegally (and deportable), not Israel's Zionist settlers.
But Netanyahu is no fool - he knows there's a limit to how much the international community will support such contentions in fast speed, so slow expansion of the status quo works better - settlers have outpaced Palestinian population growth the last 3 years running, and the decade-old still-in-progress expansion wall has been accepted as fait accomplis - ostensibly to provide security but built 2x longer than needed to maximize expansion rather than security.
Besides, Netanyahu's got Hillary showing up today to show she's got Israel's back ahead of US elections - time to play it cool, be elder statesmen, "Israel's just trying to survive", and assuage its fears about Iran and Palestinian terror.
In related news, Ehud Olmert beat 2 corruption charges against him, with the 3rd - "breach of trust" - seeming a minor issue, and not criminal. It's bittersweet victory, as these charges made him step down in favor of Netanyahu, shortly after he'd offered Palestinians a promising concession - return to 1967 lines and partial return of refugees.
Whether the ridicule of Netanyahu's Levy Report sees this government as jumping the shark, with Olmert getting a return to kickstart peace talks, or as a codification of Israeli hard-lining and a land grab for the next generations should become readily apparent shortly. (Yitzi Livni's resignation from Knesset in May predicated on the hardening of Israeli politics)
The hard-liners complaint that "you can't make peace with only 1 side" may just be their self-fulfilling prophesy. What happens if the peace process is officially declared dead is a whole new ballgame.