Leaked comments from Vice Premier Silvan Shalom regarding the Edmond Levy Committee have put Israel’s Likud government under additional scrutiny, and have left Netanyahu struggling to defend the policy.

In the leak, Shalom bragged that the members of the committee were all well-known for their pro-settler stances and as loyal Likud members before they were put in the position of reviewing the settlements’ legality. The committee’s report, issued over the summer, ruled that the occupation isn’t technically an occupation at all, and that the entire West Bank is simply part of Israel, while urging the government to retroactively legalize a number of outposts built without government permission.

Netanyahu denies that the committee members were selected with an eye toward a result favorable to his far-right government, and insists that it is just a coincidence that the appointees all happened to be on good terms with him.

Shalom, for his part, downplayed the leaks too, insisting that everything about the committee members being pro-Likud could’ve been found in any Google search, and that his tone in the comments shouldn’t be taken as evidence that it was deliberate.

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