The High Court of Justice has temporarily frozen the Settlements Law, which would retroactively legalize Jewish homes illegally built on private Palestinian property.
Right wing politicians immediately attacked the decision.
“This is a dangerous intervention by the court against Knesset legislation,” warned MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi) who is a strong proponent of the legislation.
“Time after time the judiciary tramples on the decision of one governmental authority or another. This story must stop,” Smotrich said.
“As someone who often warns against the erosion of the State of Israel’s Jewish character, I am also worried today about the future of the state’s democratic character,” Smotrich said.
He took particular issue with the fact that the court had issued the injection at the request of Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit.
In an unusual move Mandelblit sided with the plaintiffs, a consortium of 13 left-wing non-governmental group who petitioned the High Court of Justice against the legislation in March on the grounds that it violated both Israeli and international law.
The left-wing NGO Yesh Din lauded the court’s decision. “The court has justly halted the process of stealing and expropriating private Palestinian land right for the benefit of the settlers,” Yesh Din said.
“The next step is to enforce the law against illegal building on private Palestinian property. The injunction prevents additional damage but true justice will only occurs when the law is abolished,” Yesh Din said.
Smotrich, however, alleged that the court had acquiesced to Mandelblit’s request for an injunction because he was the Attorney General and therefore had undue influence
“The Attorney General has tramped on the separation of power and the rule of law with his scandalous decision to go against the government he is tasked with representing,” Smotrich said.
He added that Mandelblit had “improperly influenced the High Court of Justice including with his demand for an interim injunction against the law’s implementation.”
Motti Yogev argued that Israel cannot continue to be a “judicial dictatorship.” The court’s decision, he said, is every reason that the Knesset must advance legislation in its next session that would prevent such legal interference in laws voted upon by elected officials.
The Settlements Law, which was approved in February retroactively legalizes 3,921 illegal settler homes built on private Palestinian property while offering the Palestinian landowners monetary compensation.
According to the Left-wing NGO Peace Now, 797 of those structures are located in outposts and the remaining 3,173 are in settlements.
The government, the Civil Administration and the NGOs had an oral agreement that the law would not be executed until completion of the judicial process.
This meant that no enforcement action would be taken against illegally built homes that fell within the law’s purview. Similarly no steps would be taken to register Palestinian property to settlers.
But in July settlers asked the High Court of Justice to allow portions of the legislation to move forward, which they believed would not have an overall impact on land status should the judges strike down the legislation. In particular they want the Civil Administration to begin the bureaucratic work needed to prepare the lots for authorization.
Mandelblit asked for an injunction in response to that request.
It’s presumed that the injunction will remain in place at least a hearing is held on the case. No date has been set for such a hearing but is expected to be held by the end of the year.
The NGO’s have argued that the legislation was tantamount to land theft and constituted a de facto annexation of Area C, particularly since the Knesset does not have the purview to legislate for territory outside of sovereign Israel.
A judicial ruling upholding the legislation would overturn almost four decades of Israeli legal opinion. Left wing NGOs have argued that the legislation runs counter to international law.
Without the legislation, the settlers living on the property lots have no option of legalizing their homes because the HCJ has long held that structure on private Palestinian property cannot be authorized.