Petition challenges building freeze

Petition challenges buil

Adam settlement 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Adam settlement 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel asked the High Court of Justice on Monday to stop the Defense Ministry from executing the 10-month moratorium on new construction projects in Judea and Samaria until the government votes on the matter. In its petition to the court, the Forum argued that the security cabinet, which approved the moratorium last week, did not have the authority to do so. It claimed that the decision was illegal and violated the civil rights of Judea and Samaria residents. The state has ten days to respond to the petition. The Forum, an association of over 200 lawyers and law students, often represents settlers in court, but attorney Yossi Fuchs, who is handling the case, said that the argument his organization was making in this case was purely procedural. The issue here, he said, was that the security cabinet acted illegally in not bringing the matter to the government, because settlement construction was not a security matter. "Someone should explain to me what this has to do with national security," said Fuchs. He added that when it came to matters pertaining to Judea and Samaria, the government was the decision-making body. It was then up to the security cabinet to execute those decisions, he said. Fuchs said that any decision to freeze settlement construction needed to be authorized by the entire government, not just the security cabinet. "A decision that grievously harms the purchasing rights of Israeli citizens, residents of Judea and Samaria, that is not based on security concerns, cannot be made in a backroom deal, in the dark, by a secret security cabinet, without announcing prior consultation and without providing government ministers the opportunity to contest the issue, all because they are fearful of not gaining a majority in the government," said Fuchs. Moreover, reads the petition, "The cabinet's decision is not the result of an agreement with the Palestinian Authority, which announced that it rejects Israel's decision because it doesn't include a construction freeze in Jerusalem." According to the Forum petition, therefore, the Security Cabinet, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the government and the IDF commander in the West Bank had filed an illegal edict. The petition called on the court to issue an injunction blocking the edict's publication and execution until court proceedings are completed. The petition claimed that the security cabinet's decision was a way to bypass the government, where such a decision would likely face harsh resistance. It argued that the National Security Council was not consulted as required by law, rendering the decision null. In addition, it said, the security cabinet's decision did not address a number of important technical elements, such as the lack of mechanisms to deal with exceptions and compensation claims by private individuals. Fuchs argued that thousands of Judea and Samaria residents would face ongoing financial damages once the order was put into action, and that the state would benefit by a short delay until the government approved the decision. "Actually, it is in the state's interest to delay the order until the decision is approved by the government, because if there is no majority in favor of the freeze, the state will be required to compensate the settlers for damages for every day the order was in effect," reads the petition. The Legal Forum for Israel is not alone in its concerns. National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau (Israel Beiteinu) on Sunday asked the cabinet secretary to bring the matter to the government for a vote. On Monday Gush Etzion Regional Council head asked attorney Menahem Mazuz to stop the Defense Ministry from executing the edict.