Israeli vice PM admits committee legalizing settlements "rigged"

2012-12-11 13:38:33 GMT2012-12-11 21:38:33(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

JERUSALEM, Dec. 11 (Xinhua) -- Israeli Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom admitted during a closed Likud party rally that members of the Levy Committee, legalizing the status of settlement and outposts in the West Bank, were handpicked by officials to deliver the wanted conclusions.

Shalom's comments were taped by a correspondent of the Walla news website during a gathering at the settlement of Neve Binyamin earlier this month and published late Monday.

In June, the Levy Committee, headed by former Supreme Court vice-president Edmond Levy, recommended changing the legal status of the settlements and ruled that Israel is not an occupying territory according to the Geneva convention.

"Do you think the prime minister didn't know who Edmond Levy was when he appointed him?" Shalom said at the rally. "I will tell you: Edmond Levy was deputy mayor of Ramle on behalf of the Likud. "

Shalom also added that the other two committee members, Alan Baker and retired judge Tchiya Shapiro have also been handpicked by government officials.

"It is clear that this trio was not supposed to come up with a Sasson report," he added, referring to the 2005 report by attorney Talia Sasson, which recommended demolishing 120 settlements its legal team deemed unlawful.

On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed complete faith in the members of the committee.

"These are top-rated professionals that have done their job loyally and without prejudice," Netanyahu told the Walla website.

The Levy report, which government officials declared in October they are willing to adopt, recommended easing regulations on Jewish settlements by regulating zones and planning, halting demolitions and planning further construction according to natural growth.

However, its adoption was deemed problematic by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, who questioned the legality of the committee's conclusions. It was also criticized by the international community and the left-wing.

Peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians came to a halt in 2010, due to the increasing construction in the West Bank settlements.

In November, Israel announced the construction of more than 3, 000 housing units in east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the E1 territorial stretch connecting the two, to the ire of the international community.

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