Archive for Knesset

Israel sees court rulings on Palestinian land as mere ‘recommendations’

Posted in Everyday life in the West Bank, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Palestine, USA foreign policy, West Bank with tags , , , , , , , , on 15/10/2009 by 3071km

Written by Akiva Eldar

Date published: 13th October 2009



So what if the Supreme Court rules? In Israel those decisions are just recommendations, especially if they deal with Palestinian land. In most enlightened democratic countries, saying that decisions of the courts obligate the state authorities is like stating that the sun rises in the east. But that may not be so for Israel.

Last week, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch had to state that “rulings of this court are not mere recommendations, and the state is obliged to abide by them and to execute them with the necessary speed and efficiency, according to the circumstances of the matter.”

The head of the judicial system added: “In the case before us, the state took the law into its own hands.”

The case dates back to June 2006. The High Court of Justice at that time responded to a petition from Hamoked – the Center for the Defense of the Individual, and instructed the Defense Ministry to move the route of the separation fence near the villages of Azzun and Nabi Ilyas in the northern West Bank.

Aharon Barak, who was then president of the Supreme Court, stated in the ruling that “the petition points to an event that cannot be tolerated according to which the information that was supplied to the court did not reflect all of the considerations that were taken into account by the decision makers.”

He was referring to the fact that the Defense Ministry did not reveal to the court that the route of the fence was congruent with the map of the plan to expand the settlement of Tzufim at the expense of Palestinian lands. The prosecution promised that the fence would be dismantled within six months from the completion of the fence along the new route.

It can be assumed that the officials of the Defense Ministry understood that when the court ordered that the injustice toward the residents of the Palestinian villages be corrected “in the shortest time possible” it was not referring to three and a half years.

In any case, from Beinisch’s remarks about a ruling she handed down during a process of contempt of court, it was evident that this was not her interpretation of Barak’s ruling.

“It is not possible to put up with conduct of this kind,” she scolded the representatives of the prosecution and she ordered the state to pay the petitioners’ court costs of NIS 20,000. This sum was added to another NIS 50,000 which the taxpayers paid when the original ruling was handed down as well as the salaries of the lawyers from the prosecution who were sent to defend against the contempt of court ruling.

Before closing the case, Beinisch stated that in countries where there is a rule of law, a political and public storm would have arisen over this.

“In this case before us, the state took the law into its own hands,” she said.

And this is not the only case where the Defense Ministry has made a mockery of court decisions relating to the route of the fence. More than two years ago, the court ordered the state to consider an alternative to the fence’s route that was robbing the village of Bil’in of lands in favor of the settlement of Modi’in Ilit, and to do so “within a reasonable period of time.”

In the ruling that was handed down after 15 months, Beinisch wrote that the alternative that was chosen was not in accordance with the court decision and she ordered the state to abide by it “without further delay.”

Since then 10 months have elapsed, the residents of the village and their supporters have demonstrated, the police have used tear gas, and the fence is still in place.

Maskit Handel of the Association of Civil Rights In Israel recently documented no fewer than eight cases where the state was, or still is, in contempt of rulings handed down by the High Court of Justice since 2006. Among other things, she found two decisions relating to the fortification of schools in communities along the border with the Gaza Strip, three decisions instructing the state to build 245 classrooms in East Jerusalem, and a decision to stop making the granting of work permits for migrant workers dependent on their working for a single employer.

Enlightened rule

An affidavit submitted to the High Court of Justice a few weeks ago (in response to a petition) by the Defense Minister’s adviser on settlement affairs, Eitan Broshi, indicates that from Ehud Barak’s point of view, anything relating to Palestinian rights, and not only the high court’s rulings, are nothing more than a recommendation.

The affidavit states that the defense minister has decided, for the time being, to refrain from carrying out demolition orders against nine homes in Ofra that were built on private Palestinian land. The explanation no doubt convinced the Palestinians who lost their lands that they are living under an enlightened rule of occupation.

“There is no point in separating this individual case or any other without seeing the general picture and the system of circumstances under which the respondents are acting,” the affidavit stated.

And what is the general picture? Two dozen outposts and numerous illegal homes? And what does the phrase “the system of circumstances” mean? Fear of the settlers?

Daniel Ben Simon, the faction chairman of Barak’s party, Labor, declared during a tour of the outposts organized by Peace Now at the end of August, that if they are not vacated by the start of the winter session of the Knesset, “the Labor party will reconsider its continued membership of the government.”

No special excitement could be seen among the factions on the right when the winter session opened Monday. However informed sources promise that this time they are serious. The sources reveal that in return for the pass the prime minister received with regard to freezing settlement construction, the defense minister has promised the Americans that there will be a speedy evacuation of the outposts, and he has even shown them the schedule.

The Knesset: many parties, one mind

Posted in Gaza, Israeli politics with tags , , , , , on 30/03/2009 by 3071km

This is an interesting article written by Daphna Baram and posted last week in The Guardian (Thursday 26th March 2009). We hope you find it interesting!

Intransigence, expansionism, racism and warmongering now seem to be the consensus across Israeli politics

Ehud Barak’s move to join Binyamin Netanyahu’s coalition and rub shoulders around the cabinet table with arch racist Avigdor Lieberman should not have surprised anybody, but was still met with shocked lamentations from the ranks of the decomposing remnants of the Zionist left. The fact that Tzipi Livni, leader of the opportunistic “central” Kadima party, demonstrated more courage and integrity (for which the long knives in her party have already been drawn against her), is hardly a breathtaking bombshell either for anybody who has been following the careers of the power-obsessed general and the goody-two-shoes girl scout. Many ask themselves what’s left of the Israeli left.

The answer to that, as it always has been, is simple. The Israeli left is combined of the following: the diminishing Meretz, a group of liberal Zionists who are torn by the realisation that they will soon have to decide whether they want a Jewish state or a democratic one – if they opt for the former they’ll have to waive the liberal tag, while if they choose the latter they’ll have to part with the Zionist one; Arab and Jewish Hadash voters who are struggling to hold on to their two-state solution while beginning to realise that it may well be too late for that; and the mainly Arab voters of Balad, whose plain call for a state for all its citizens is heard by most Jewish Israelis as a subversive “antisemitic” plan. Traditionally, the other Arab party, The United Arab List, is also counted with the left, though there’s nothing particularly lefty about it. However, since it represents a part of the constituency of the Palestinian-Arab deprived minority, it naturally aligns itself with the cause of Palestinians’ rights, both inside Israel proper, and in the context of the West Bank and Gaza.

This whole block, which has just been defined as “the left”, is represented now by 14 parliamentary seats out of the 120 seats in the Israeli Knesset. To them one may hesitantly add four out of the 13 representatives of the Labour party in the newly elected Knesset, who are close in their political stance to Meretz. Hence 18 out of 120 is what’s left of the Israeli left, and even that only if one is willing to engage in some intellectual gymnastics and expand the notion of “left” way beyond its traditional boundaries.

As for the Labour party, labelling it a traitor for joining a rightwing government involves a certain amount of wishful thinking regarding its true nature to start with. The answer to the question “when has the Labour party transformed?” is “never”, when it comes to its patterns of dealing with Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and “in the mid 1980s, just like most Labour parties in the west” when addressing its stance on social and economic issues. On society and economy, it might suffice to say that it was none other than Ofer Eini, the leader of Israel’s huge workers union, the Histadrut, who instigated Barak’s move to join what will be, in all likelihood, Israel’s most radical neoconservative government ever. The Israeli Labour party has long ago abandoned any commitment to social issues; it has joined up with the ruthless new economy and the big money behind it. The few Labour MKs who still bother paying lip service to social equality are all among the four “rebels” mentioned previously. The rest do not even flinch at the idea of hooking up with Netanyahu, who branded himself as the enemy of the workers and the poor in his last tenure as finance minister.

The case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is more complicated. Internationally, the Labour party is viewed as a kosher stamp for any Israeli government, promising a less belligerent stance and a bigger willingness to reach a peaceful solution. This rather hollow belief is exactly what makes Barak such a desirable partner for Netanyahu, despite the pathetic size to which his party has just sunk in parliament (13 out of 120 MKs). Netanyahu is well aware that any type of intransigence and pig-headedness, not to mention actual acts of war, would be more digestible for the Obama administration when coming from a government that includes the Labour party.

The fact of the matter is that the Israeli Labour party has supported all the wars Israel has waged, and actually ran and instigated most of them. The two latest gory interventions, in Lebanon in 2006 and in Gaza this year, were both orchestrated by Labour ministers of defence, Amir Peretz and Barak. Paying lip service to the division of Palestine while planning and propagating territorial expansionism and land-grabbing has been the policy of the Labour party ever since the early days of the Zionist movement, sprinkled by sporadic attempts at giving up some of the territory in return for getting rid of as many Palestinian inhabitants as possible from under Israel’s control in the process. Labour might have invented this double-tongues policy, but it has now been adopted by all the main powers in Israeli politics, from Kadima to Likud and even the radical mark on the right – Lieberman’s Israel Beytenu.

Everybody is chanting the now popular two-state solution slogan, while in effect expanding the settlements, waging war on the Palestinians in Gaza and devising discriminatory policies aimed against the Palestinian citizens of Israel. Considering the fact that the largest party in the emerging default opposition, Kadima, is holding to identical values and political programme to that of the parties in the government, there’s no choice but to recognise the painful truth. The intransigence, the expansionism, the racism and the warmongering are not the problem with only one of the big parties in the Israel’s politics; at the moment they seem to be the national consensus. The extent to which Barack Obama’s new administration will try to bend this consensus remains to be seen. The precedents, however, do not leave much space for hope.