High Court rejects petitions against Israel-Turkey agreement

The court struck down three petitions based on the government's perceived admittance of guilt for the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, and its acceptance of Hamas remaining active in Turkey.

July 7, 2016 17:36
2 minute read.
Israel Turkey

Israel and Turkey flags. (photo credit: Courtesy)

The High Court of Justice on Thursday rejected three petitions that aimed to strike down the government’s rapprochement agreement with Ankara.

The petitions had brought forward two central arguments.

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The first was that by agreeing to compensate the families of killed IHH operatives from the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, the government was essentially agreeing to finance terrorism.

When Israel Navy commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara ship to stop it from breaking the blockade of the Gaza Strip, Turkish IHH activists attacked them, and the commandos killed some of the attackers.

The second argument was that the agreement should be voided because it did not guarantee Hamas’s expulsion from Turkey because it agreed to a false distinction between Hamas’s armed and political wings.

According to the deal with Israel, Turkey agreed that Hamas would not be allowed to plan terrorist operations from its territory, but did not agree to an expulsion of its political wing.

According to the argument of the Shurat Hadin – Israel Law Center NGO, the Israeli government was in fact allowing Hamas to remain fully active in Turkey, and any agreement to normalize relations with Ankara without a full expulsion of Hamas violated numerous Israeli public commitments on its redlines for a deal.

The court, rejecting the objection to the agreement about paying funds to slain IHH operatives’ families, ruled that the government was making a “humanitarian gesture” and not admitting that the IDF had violated any laws.

At Tuesday’s hearing on the issue, Justice Uri Shoham had indicated his disapproval of the argument, saying that “just because there is an agreement which contains certain elements, it does not mean you can say the government is financing terrorist operations.”

The second objection, filed by Shurat Hadin, about allowing Hamas to continue to operate in Turkey, was also shot down. In explaining its decision, the court ruled that it was up to the government to determine the nature of the compromise reached with Turkey on this subject. In the previous hearing, the justices had said that the agreement clearly seems to be an issue of statecraft, which courts are not equipped to judge and have no jurisdiction over.

Effectively they said that whether it is a good or bad agreement is for elected officials and the public to judge, not the courts, short of an issue such as bribery or some other specific crime being committed in connection with the agreement.

Shoham also praised aspects of the agreement, noting that it blocks future foreign war crimes cases against Israeli officials and soldiers.

He asked the petitioners why they were not worried about what would happen with such possible cases if the agreement did not exist.

Representing one of the petitioners, far-right activist and lawyer Itamar Ben-Gvir said, “When the High Court judges want to, they intervene even about government decisions and Knesset laws... the High Court has given its backing to a government decision which encourages terrorism.”

The NGO Movement for Governability and Democracy said in response to the decision that there was no need to hold the hearing in the first place, and that the High Court is being forced to hear petitions that do not enter into the jurisdiction of the judiciary.

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