Smotrich: Judicial rope choking settlers, will hang on Netanyahu's neck

Right-wing politicians and settlers have long argued that the High Court discriminated against them, particularly with regard to land cases involving Palestinians.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and MK Bezalel Smotrich (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and MK Bezalel Smotrich
The Right cried foul and judicial bias, and charged that the High Court of Justice was attempting to interfere with upcoming sovereignty plans, as it railed against Tuesday’s judicial ruling to void a law that would have retroactively legalized 4,000 settler homes.
Among the harshest critics was MK Bezalel Smotrich (Yamina), who spoke against judicial dictatorship and warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he would be toppled by that same dictatorship.
“Mr. Prime Minister, the rope that stretches around the neck of the settlement today is the same rope that will be tied to your neck. Do not expect justice,” Smotrich said in reference to Netanyahu’s own trial on corruption charges.
Right-wing politicians and settlers have long argued that the High Court discriminated against them, particularly with regard to land cases involving Palestinians.
One of the signature hallmarks of the last Netanyahu government was an attempt by former justice minister Ayelet Shaked to revolutionize the judiciary system so that it was more likely to favor settler rights in Judea and Samaria in the name of the public good. The 2017 Settlements Law, voided Tuesday by the court, was a signature piece of legislation that reflected that outlook. It authorized 4,000 settler homes built on private Palestinian property, while offering the landowners compensation.
As part of that argument, they also contended that the High Court had too much judicial power and as a result had usurped powers to set policy for the state, which should instead be done by the Knesset and government.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein immediately tweeted that “the High Court has lost it and has appointed itself to be the legislative, executive and judiciary bodies all at the same time. This must end. The only way to do so is through the Supreme Court override bill. If the High Court does not recognize its own limitations, the Knesset will have to clarify them.”
MK Michal Shir (Likud) immediately filed an amended bill to legalize unauthorized settlement homes. Settlements Minister Tzipi Hotovely held an emergency forum with legal experts on legislative alternatives to the Settlements Law.
“This government has a responsibility to strengthen the settlements and to find alternative legislation that would authorize thousands of homes, so that the settlements are not harmed by the court’s decision,” Hotovely said.
In contrast, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi tweeted about the need to respect the court.
“We respect the High Court’s decision on the [Settlements] law. The High Court has the full authority to examine legislation in the State of Israel. We will ensure that every decision of the High Court is respected, and we will not allow the rule of law to be harmed,” he said.
Smotrich said it was no accident that the court had issued its ruling now that a new government was formed, which was unlikely to toe the same judicial policy line with regard to unauthorized settlement construction.
“The strongest political body in the country [the HCJ] was waiting for a more lax government that would not move on the Supreme Court Override Bill and would continue with extreme left-wing” rulings, he said.
“For years, the so-called High Court has trampled over citizen’s rights, and has distorted the Knesset’s laws so that they conform to a progressive and post-Zionist agenda that always favors enemy’s civil rights over its state’s own citizens,” Smotrich said.
In a warning to the court, he said, “Know that all dictatorships will fall. Sooner or later the people will rise, the Knesset will legislate, control will be returned to the people and the Israeli public will free themselves from the violent strangulation.”
Shir said the decision was a “brute trampling” by the court on the government’s prerogative to handle diplomatic matters. Its proximity to the pending plan to apply sovereignty was not accidental, she said.
“It is incumbent upon us, the elected officials, to fulfill the promise given to the public and to apply sovereignty to all the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria,” she said.
Binyamin Regional Council head Israel Ganz said the High Court had proved once again that it “did not recognize the rights of Jews and settlers,” adding that “there is no democracy and no rule of law in Jerusalem.”
Economy Minister Amir Peretz (Labor) called on all politicians to respect the court’s decision that what was illegal could not be legalized.
He added that he also believes that the court decision was a statement against pending Israeli annexation plans. “The other conclusion is that everything should be done to avoid unilateral steps and unilateral annexation. Despite the difficulties involved, negotiations [with the Palestinians] are the preferred path,” Peretz tweeted.
Some of the 13 NGOs that filed the petition to the court against the Settlements Law issued a statement that welcomed the decision to void the law, noting that judges had stated the obvious, “thou shall not steal.” This included the left-wing Israeli NGOs Yesh Din, Peace Now and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.
The law was “a black mark on the Israeli Knesset and on Israeli democracy and the High Court of Justice,” which the statement said “retroactively legalizes thievery and allows systematic plundering of land.”
The NGOs continued: “We have curbed this unsuccessful attempt to expropriate private land of people, living under occupation by a government they did not choose, for the benefit of new settlements aimed at fragmenting the West Bank.”
The groups said that the decision “raises a red flag to protagonists of annexation. Let it be clear: If the government of Israel goes ahead with its plan to annex, it will implement the harsh damages the HCJ sought to prevent by revoking this bill.”
Joint List MK Ayman Odeh said the ruling was an important victory against land theft, but it had little practical meaning as long as Israel continued its “occupation” of the West Bank as well its preparations for annexation of portions of it.
“It is like forbidding the bank robbers from only stealing the hostages’ wallets,” he said.