Israel’s High Court freezes implementation of regulation bill

The implementation of a controversial land law in Israel has been frozen for two months after an injunction was granted by the High Court of Justice yesterday, pending a substantive decision on the legislation before the end of the year.

The Regulation Bill, passed by the Knesset in February, was challenged by NGOs Peace Now, Yesh Din and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel on behalf of 27 Palestinian local councils and 13 Israeli civil society organisations.

The bill retroactively gives residents of 4,000 housing units in West Bank settlements the right to live in their homes that were built on private Palestinian land, either unknowingly or with government help. The legislation contains provisions to grant landowners an annual usage payment of 125 per cent of the land’s rental value.

No additional land will be expropriated and outposts found to have been built in good faith or with government backing will not be demolished. Although the injunction is time limited, it could be extended until the High Court considers the substantive case.

Harel Arnon, a private lawyer, will represent the state because Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit announced that he would not defend the legislation if challenged in court, calling it unconstitutional.

Jewish Home MK Shuli Mualem-Refaeli, who co-sponsored the bill, said that “the fight against Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria … is not only being fought through terror and incitement, but through the abuse of Israel’s justice system as well”.

The passage of the bill was opposed by opposition MKs and President Reuven Rivlin, who said that “Israel has adopted international law. It does not allow a country acting according to it to apply and enforce its laws on territories that are not under its sovereignty. If it does so, it is a legal cacophony. It will cause Israel to be seen as an apartheid state, which it is not”.

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