The Israeli Law Professors' Forum for Democracy has found that changes introduced 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 reached the conclusion in a position paper titled "Implications of the Agreement Subordinating 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 specifically Israeli public law.
Under the power-sharing agreement signed in February between the Likud parliamentary faction and the Religious Zionism faction, Netanyahu agreed to transfer responsibility for, and management of, the occupied West Bank to civilian hands. The deal stipulated that the far-right leader of the Religious Zionism faction, Bezalel Smotrich, will be granted special authority over the occupied Palestinian territory.
"The Civil Administration is the civilian arm of the military government," explained the professors. "Under international law this is the only branch that is supposed to govern the West Bank. Subordinating the Civil Administration to a civilian authority (the Ministry of Defence) is a violation of international law, and specifically of the 1907 Hague Regulations."
Concerns over the power-sharing proposal were raised as early as January by senior legal experts in the Israeli security service. Although they warned against transferring authority over the Unit for the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) to Smotrich, there was no mention of apartheid at the time.
Every major human rights group has concluded that Israel practices apartheid, a crime against humanity which could be prosecuted in the International Criminal Court (ICC). Their conclusion has been rejected by Israel and advocates of the occupation state. Allegations of anti-Semitism have been hurled at anyone using the term to describe Israel.
The position paper published by the forum earlier this month is an indication that even inside Israel attitudes are shifting. "The agreement is an overt and formal measure that gives validity to claims that Israel's practices constitute apartheid, which is prohibited under international law," the law professors concluded.