High Court upholds state of emergency
Decision comes 13 years after petition is filed; Israel has been in declared state of emergency since 1948.
Israel's Supreme Court in J'lem [file] Photo: Reuters
The High Court of Justice ruled on Tuesday to reject a petition calling for the
cancelation of Israel’s state of emergency – 13 years after it was first
Israel has been in a state of emergency since 1948, in accordance
with article 38 of the Basic Law: The Government.
According to the Basic
Law, amended in 1992, the Knesset may declare a state of emergency, which may
remain in force for one year, after which the Knesset can renew its declaration
if it sees fit.
Since 1992, Knesset has renewed the state of emergency
annually. In 1999, the Association for Civil Rights (ACRI) in Israel petitioned
the High Court, asking the justices to order the government to nullify the state
of emergency, which they argue grants broad human rights violations.
unanimous ruling, Supreme Court President (emeritus) Dorit Beinisch and Justices
Elyakim Rubinstein and Edna Arbel said the petition had “run its
Since ACRI filed the petition, however, the state has slowly
done away with several emergency ordinances and laws that require a state of
In 2006, the court noted, the Justice Ministry filed a report
to the court stating that several emergency laws have been abolished, including
the Emergency State Search Authorities Law (Temporary Order).
said that while “much work remains to be done” on the issue, the government
should be allowed to complete the legislative process – which he noted that ACRI
had helped to promote. He emphasized that the work should be completed in the
“Israel is a normal country that is not normal,”
Rubinstein said, adding that Israel is ‘normal” in the sense that it is a
democracy whose fundamental rights – free elections, freedom of expression, the
independence of its courts and legal advice – safeguard its basic essence as a
Jewish and democratic state.
‘[Israel] is not normal because the threats
to its existence still remain,” he said. “It is the only democratic country
under such a threat, and there have been no proper relations with its neighbors,
despite peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, and certain agreements with the
Israel’s ongoing fight against terrorism would likely
continue for the foreseeable future, Rubinstein said.
“Every man is still
not under his vine and under his fig tree,” Rubinstein said, referring to a
passage from the Book of Kings, which describes a time of peace and prosperity
in ancient Israel under King Solomon’s rule.
However, Rubinstein added,
it was only to be expected that emergency legislation should be adapted to suit
a 64-year-old democratic state.
The government’s challenge, the justice
said, was to design legislation that would incorporate Israel’s “normal and
“This goal is achievable,” Rubinstein concluded. “Lo
b’shamayim hi [It is not in the Heavens.”
In her part of the ruling,
Beinisch criticized what she said is a “tenuous connection” between many
emergency orders and regulations enforced decades ago, and the state of
emergency. This court existed as much half a century ago,” Beinisch
ACRI legal adviser Dan Yakir slammed the ruling, saying it was
“The High Court has left intact an abnormal situation,
under which [Israel] is under a state of emergency for 64 years,” Yakir
The state had 13 years since the petition was filed to complete the
legislative work required, he added.
“The state of emergency declaration
and the enforced legislation subject [the court] to grant the government
draconian and far-reaching powers,” Yakir said. “On the very day that the
government established the largest coalition in the country’s history, there is
a growing concern that these powers will be misused to violate basic human