Supreme Court strikes down unconstitutional Legalisation law

What happened: The Israeli Supreme Court yesterday overturned, by an 8-1 majority, the controversial Legalisation law deeming it unconstitutional.

  • The 2017 law allowed for the retroactive expropriation of privately-owned Palestinian land in West Bank settlements in return for the state to compensate Palestinian landowners but left the buildings in place.
  • The Likud issued a statement saying, “It is saddening that the Supreme Court interfered and struck down a law that is important for the settlement enterprise and its future. We will take action to reinstate the law.”
  • In contrast, their coalition partners in Blue and White said, “The legalisation law in its current format runs counter to Israel’s constitutional status, and its problematic legal status was known back when the Knesset passed it. We respect the Supreme Court’s decision and we will make sure that it is carried out.”
  • In the opposition, Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz said: “The Supreme Court did the right thing by striking down the expropriation law … the expropriation law is a robbery law that contradicts the most basic ethics. We had better learn a lesson from the disqualification of this law for the annexation plan, which will cause a much greater injustice.”
  • While the right-wing Yamina, also in the opposition, said: “The court has continued to trample democracy underfoot and once again has interfered in matters that are beyond its purview, undoing the decision of the elected officials. Yamina has already introduced the override clause bill, which will put an end to this disgrace and give the country back to the people.”
  • Also yesterday, Alternate Prime Minister and Defence Minister Benny Gantz met with settler leaders to discuss the extension of Israeli law to parts of the West Bank. He told them, “You ought to..take what you can and deal with what remains.”
  • Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh yesterday described the Israeli plan as an “existential threat” and threatened that “if Israel annexes territories on July 1, we will declare the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 lines”.

Context: The law had been frozen since 2017, pending the decision by the Supreme Court. At the time, the law was heavily criticised by legal advisers and the Attorney General refused to defend it in court.

  • The court’s decision sends an important message to the International Criminal Court that the Israeli judicial system respects international law.
  • The ruling comes weeks before the anticipated announcement on extending Israeli law to parts of the West Bank. According to a source close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, applying sovereignty would solve most of the legalisation law’s problems.
  • Although the extent and depth of the move is not yet clear, the latest assessment is that the initial announcement will relate to the three substantial settlement blocs, but not the Jordan Valley. The three blocs are Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem, Maale Adumim north-east of Jerusalem and the Ariel salient to the north east of Tel Aviv. These areas should be relatively easier to map out as opposed to more remote settlements.
  • Defence Minister Gantz is thought to be most concerned about maintaining the peace treaty and security cooperation with Jordan.

Looking ahead: German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas will arrive in Israel for a short visit today. Maas will meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi. The German foreign minister is expected to tell them that any decision to apply sovereignty will damage relations between the two countries.

  • It is anticipated that Gantz will visit Jordan in the near future. He will aim to allay Jordan’s concerns surrounding the planned application of Israeli sovereignty and to improve Israel’s relations with the kingdom.

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