The Regulation Law, which seeks to legalize thousands of contested homes in Yehudah and Shomron, has come before the High Court, and the country and the world were paying close attention on Sunday.
The law, passed in February 2017, represents an attempt to put an end once and for all to the inflammatory issue of Palestinian claims to land on which Jewish communities have been built by providing compensation for their alleged losses without evicting Jewish families.
The law was subsequently frozen by the High Court pending further review.
If the Court allows the law to stand, it would effectively legalize over 4,000 housing units in Yehudah and Shomron whose future has until now been uncertain. As such, right-wing activists are backing the law, while those on the left are condemning it.
The opening hearing on Sunday did not bode well for its supporters, as the judges aggressively questioned the lawyer representing the state. Deputy High Court President Hanan Melcer wanted to know, for instance, why the state was not considering alternate options proposed by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.
The state’s lawyer Harel Arnon answered that while various ideas have been floated, none have been tried and none would resolve all the legal problems in these cases, according to The Jerusalem Post.
Mandelblit’s name hung over the proceedings, as his opposition to the law and refusal to defend it prompted Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked to hire a private lawyer, Harel Arnon, to represent the state.
Critics of the Regulation Law have cited international law in their arguments against it. Arnon addressed them in a statement on Sunday:
“If the High Court lets international law trump Israeli Knesset laws, then soon it will need to worry about petitions against Israeli control of the West Bank and Golan areas which until now were not in play,” Arnon said.
He charged that human rights groups are seeking nothing less than a constitutional revolution by setting international law above Israeli law, and that to do so would destroy the Knesset’s sovereignty.
Shaked and Arnon disputed the charge that it would contravene international law, citing cases of other occupied areas in the world where similar solutions were upheld by courts.
Opponents such as Yesh Din and Peace Now claim that the law would be tantamount to partial annexation, as many unauthorized outposts would not be legalized and there would be no formal annexation.
Yesh Din’s Michael Sfard told the High Court the petitioners represent 40 Palestinian local councils who want their land and not compensation. Confiscating their land, he asserted, would violate their basic human rights.
Arnon conceded that the Regulation Law is an imperfect instrument for solving a difficult legal and political problem, but that it’s the best available.
“It’s possible to find a flaw here and there; but in the end, there is no other solution” for thousands of Israeli families who are “paralyzed” due to their current legal limbo, he said.
The Knesset’s legal adviser Eyal Yinon also told the High Court that “extraordinary measures must be taken to address the real distress” suffered by the residents. “If the law is disqualified, the problem will come back again and again,” he predicted.