High Court: Freeze is Legal, State Too Slow on Compensation

High Court says decision on construction freeze was legal, but State is dragging feet with compensation. Settlers: Fish are treated better.

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Gil Ronen, | updated: 20:01

Supreme Court building
Supreme Court building
Israel news photo: Flash 90

A High Court panel composed of Court President Dorit Beinisch and Judges Ayala Procaccia and Neil Hendel rejected on Wednesday a series of motions filed against the Israeli government decision to freeze construction starts in Judea and Samaria for ten months, beginning last November.

"We have examined the petitioners' various arguments and have reached the conclusion that the motions failed to point out a flaw in the diplomacy-security cabinet decision or in the suspension [freeze] order that requires our intervention,” the High Court panel decided. The petitioners had argued that the cabinet was not the proper forum for taking a decision to initiate a construction freeze, and that the entire government should have voted on the matter.

'A clear policy decision'
"The suspension decision that is the subject of the petition is a clear policy decision that was taken by the diplomacy-security cabinet and.... was intended to advance a cause that he government sees as one of its major goals – 'the advancement of the diplomatic process vis-a-vis the Palestinians through direct negotiations...,'” the judges added. 

The Director of the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, Moshe Eyal, said that the decision shows that for the High Court judges, “the human rights of Judea and Samaria residents are less important than breaching the rights of force-fed geese.”

Gershon Mesika, Head of the Samaria Local Authority, observed that “in order to receive justice from the High Court one must be an Arab or a fish in the Eilat coral reefs.”

Both men were referring to recent court decisions in petitions by animal rights and wildlife conservation groups.

State slapped over compensation
The judges criticized the state, however, for its slowness in establishing and operating a mechanism for compensating citizens and bodies hurt by the freeze. They noted that “upon the date at which the respondents filed their reply, on March 22, 2010, the Claims Committee had not yet begun its work... It is to be hoped for that all of the necessary preparations will be completed in a short while so that the compensation mechanism begins to operate regularly...”        

Attorney Yossi Fuchs of the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, which was one of the petitioners, said that the group had argued that a decision of the magnitude of the freeze order, which involves "a serious abrogation of the property rights of Israeli citizens who reside in Judea and Samaria" and is not connected to security – "cannot be made opportunistically, under cover of darkness, in a secret security cabinet with no prior notice or preparation and without allowing government ministers to appeal it.”