In a High Court case over a law to legalize Israeli settlements built on stolen, privately owned Palestinian land, the attorney hired to represent the government (because the attorney general refused to do so) argues that Palestinians, and not just settlers, would actually benefit.
Israel’s High Court of Justice heard arguments on Sunday against the “Formalization Law,” which would retroactively legalize settlements built illegally on private Palestinian land.
Sunday’s hearing was remarkable, and not only because of the law’s potential consequences. After all, it’s not every day that attorneys Michael Sfard and Hassan Jabareen, two of the country’s most prominent human rights lawyers, find themselves on the same side as the Attorney General — and in opposition to the government and the Knesset.
For much of the hearing, Attorney Aner Helman, who represented the Attorney General’s office, gave such a stirring denunciation of the law’s human rights violations that one might have thought he was one of the petitioners in the case.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has refused to defend the law, calling it unconstitutional. Due to his refusal, the government was forced to hire a private lawyer, Attorney Harel Arnon, to defend the law in court.
Most of the hearing focused on two main questions. First, is international law the relevant in the case or should the law be judged according to Israeli law? If it’s the latter, should international law be ignored entirely?
Arnon quickly answered the first question: the lawsuit is a matter of striking down Knesset legislation, rather than an administrative order. “The petitioners, in practice, are asking the court to carry out a judicial coup,” he claimed. “They are demanding, in the name of foreign norms, to flip the scales that Israeli society designed for itself.” The suit, Arnon continued, constitutes an attempt to erode the authority of the Knesset.
After grounding his claim that the expropriation law should be judged solely according to the Israeli legal framework, Arnon took more than an hour to detail the central aims of the legislation. The immediate goal, he said, is for the government to take responsibility for a situation in which, due to a complex political reality, it’s own policy has been contradictory. On the one hand, the government has funded and supported the West Bank settlement enterprise, even when these activities were illegal in one way or another. On the other hand, the government didn’t formalize the situation — in other...Read More