Israel in Power Struggle With Top Court: State’s Resistance to Court Orders Raises Rule-Of-Law Worries
Few were surprised when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israel’s Supreme Court that his government was unable to comply with the court’s May 1 deadline to demolish a group of illegal, exclusively Jewish apartment buildings in the occupied West Bank.
The government petition, which asked the court to delay the scheduled evacuation of 30 homes in the Jewish settlement of Beit El, followed hard on the heels of an almost identical case in which the government told the court that it could not meet another repeatedly postponed deadline. That order was to demolish the illegal West Bank outpost of Migron.
In both cases, the court found that the structures were built on privately owned Palestinian land. In the Migron case, the Supreme Court rejected the government’s request — but still granted the government until August 1 to evacuate.
“We are getting used to it,” said Dror Etkes, an anti-settlement activist. “The government waits until the last minute and then says that it can’t meet the deadline and needs more time. It’s unacceptable.”
But it is not only on settlement-related rulings that the government is failing to obey the Supreme Court. Other cases include a 2002 order for three municipalities to add Arabic to municipal signs, which one of the cities, Nazareth Illit, has failed to do. The Interior Ministry is continuing to automatically decline visa renewals for migrant workers who give birth in Israel, even though the Supreme Court ruled last year that in certain circumstances these workers should be allowed to remain in Israel. And as the Forward reports ths week, the Interior Ministry is also making demands on would-be immigrants who have converted to Judaism that contravene a Supreme Court decision.
“If it were one or two cases, that is one thing, but this is more than what is acceptable for a democratic country,” former deputy attorney general Yehudit Karp told the Forward.
While government defiance of the court involves a tiny percentage of all court rulings, for Karp, the area in which such cases are concentrated is telling. “It seems to be a phenomenon that in special fields like the settlements, the Arab sector and decisions that need allocation of budget, [the government] just goes on for years without implementing,” Karp said.