Israel’s Legal Professors Forum for Democracy has found that changes brought by the current government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “validate the claim that Israel practices apartheid”.
The group represents 120 of Israel’s most prominent law professors. It culminated in a position paper entitled “Implications of the Agreement Prescribing the Civil Administration to the Additional Minister in the Ministry of Defence”. The forum is an ad hoc and voluntary group of experts on Israeli law and in particular on Israeli public law.
Under the power-sharing agreement signed in February between the Likud parliamentary faction and the Religious Zionist faction, Netanyahu agreed to transfer responsibility and management of the West Bank to civilian hands. The agreement ordered that the leader of the far-right faction of Religious Zionism, Bezalel Smotrich, be given special authority over the occupied Palestinian territory.
“The Civil Administration is the civilian arm of the military government,” the professors explained. “Under international law this is the only branch that is supposed to control the West Bank. It is a violation of international law to subordinate the Civil Administration to a civilian authority (the Ministry of Defence), and specifically the Hague Regulations 1907.”
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Senior legal experts in Israel’s security service raised concerns about the power-sharing proposal as early as January. Although they warned that the Unit for the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) was not authorized to be transferred to Smotrich, there was no mention of apartheid at the time.
All major human rights groups have concluded that Israel practices apartheid, a crime against humanity that could be prosecuted in the International Criminal Court (ICC). Israel and the occupying state’s advocates rejected their conclusion. Accusations of anti-Semitism have been leveled against anyone who uses the term to describe Israel.
The position paper published by the forum earlier this month is a sign that even attitudes within Israel are changing. “The agreement is a clear and formal measure that gives validity to claims that Israel’s practices amount to apartheid, which is prohibited under international law,” said the Law professors.
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