The smallest coin that is legal tender in Israel is worth ten agurot – and in the coming days, the High Court will determine just how legal the coin is. In a case that has been revolving in the court for several years, the court will decide if a NIS 2,000 ($560) court-ordered debt payable to Arab MK Bassal Ghatas can be remitted in ten agurot coins.
In 2016 Ghatas was caught smuggling cellphones into Israeli prisons for the use of terrorists, and was censured by the Knesset for his actions. Members of the right-wing Otzma Yehudit organization appealed to the High Court, claiming that the punishment was too light – but the court ruled against them, and ordered them to pay NIS 2,000 in court costs to Ghatas.
In protest, the petitioners decided to pay their fine using thousands of ten agurot pieces. Ghatas’s lawyers refused to accept the payment. Attorney Itamar Ben Gvir, representing Oztma Yehudit, demanded that the court cancel the fine altogether, as Ghatas’s attorneys had refused payment. For their part, Ghatas’s attorneys told the court that they were willing to pass on the NIS 2,000, unless the court ordered Otzma Yehudit to pay via a check.
In response, Ben Gvir told the court that if it insisted on intervening in a matter that is usually an affair for bill collectors, “we would be happy to discuss the many aspects of court-ordered payments,” which may violate Basic Laws in some cases. The court had not instructed Otzma Yehudit on what form the payment should take, and that as long as ten agurot coins were still legal tender, there was no reason not to use them to pay court costs, or any other debt. High Court Judge Menachem Mazuz is expected to issue his ruling on the matter within several weeks.