The High Court of Justice on Thursday placed an injunction on the Knesset Regulation Act, following an application by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit. A ruling handed down by Judge Neil Hendel temporarily legalized a “procedural arrangement” according to which the state will not demolish illegal homes in Jewish settlements for the time being, but will also not compel Arab owners to accept “market value plus” for lands they claim within Jewish communities.
Eight Jewish settlers petitioned the High Court of Justice earlier this month, demanding the implementation of the recently enacted Regulation Act. In their petition, the settlers, who live in buildings that the Regulation Act could resolve retroactively, argued that they should be able to implement the new law because no judicial injunction had been issued against it, and therefore there was apparently no official legal impediment to its realization.
A day later, Mandelblit appealed to the High Court to turn the procedural arrangement into a formal judicial interim order. According to the arrangement, the state promised not to actually compel Arabs to receive payments for their disputed land – and also not to demolish buildings in settlements that may be regulated by the new law.
This ruling will hold until the High Court of Justice determines whether the law is constitutional.
It should be noted that the AG was practically screaming his head off against the legislation, which seeks to save as many as 10,000 Jewish owned homes that could potentially be destroyed by the court. Mandelblit declared the law unconstitutional, and warned that he would not represent the government in its defense before the High Court of Justice – which resulted in his public humiliation when the Knesset suggested it would send its own legal counsel to defend the law instead.
Some have argued that Mandelblit just established a dangerous precedent in Israel’s mishmash of the branches of government, whereby the Knesset would have to await the court’s approval for its legislation, as would the government depend on the court’s not to execute new laws.
MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) issued a furious response to the interim injunction of the High Court of Justice, calling it a “dangerous intervention by the High Court of Justice in Knesset legislation.”
Smotrich argued that the fix was in regarding the court’s ruling on the Regulation Act, and it endangers Israeli democracy.
“The fact that the attorney general decided in a scandalous manner to stand up against the government he is supposed to represent in order to improperly influence the High Court of Justice, as well as his demand of the High Court of Justice for an interim injunction against the implementation of the law is nothing less than trampling the separation of powers and the rule of law,” Smotrich warned.
He added that at the beginning of the Knesset Winter Session, “I will again promote my bill to limit the rampages of the attorney general, and we will also advance, God willing, the enactment of the legislator’s advantage bill which I submitted in the past session.”
Smotrich’s “advantage” bill is based on a Canadian law that permits parliament to enact a law which does not pass constitutional muster – for a limited period of four years. Smotrich’s bill sets several conditions: the law must be properly enacted; the law clearly mentions its constitutional deviation; the law passes with a 61 vote majority; the law has a four-year sunset, but can be renewed with the same preconditions.