High Court Annuls Regularization Law as Annexation Decision Nears

On Tuesday night, June 9, Israel’s High Court of Justice struck down as unconstitutional the 2017 Regularization Law; this as the country approaches a decision by the far-right government whether to go ahead with its intention to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.

The Regularization Law, was passed by the Knesset three years ago even though it was opposed by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, and allowed for the retroactive legalization of over 4,000 settler units in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The High Court announced that it was declaring the law unconstitutional because it “retroactively legalizes illegal building by Jews in the area [the West Bank],” while having “deeply harmful consequences for the substantive rights of Palestinians.” Yesh Din, Peace Now, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), Adalah and a large range of other human rights groups petitioned against the law shortly after it passed in February 2017.

An Israeli settlement in the South Hebron Hills

An Israeli settlement in the South Hebron Hills (Photo: B’Tselem)

The decision to declare the law unconstitutional was passed in a 8-1 decision, with only Justice Noam Sohlberg in dissent. Not unexpectedly, the court’s decision has triggered a new wave of condemnation from the country’s right-wing, which viewed the legislation as a singular achievement. The Likud expressed disappointment with the bill’s annulment and said another bill would be drafted in its place.

Joint List chairman, MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash) praised the court’s decision, and termed the disqualified law racist as it aimed to legalize confiscation of privately owned Palestinian lands for the benefit of Jewish settlements. Odeh said the message implicit in the court’s decision to nullify the law was that the planned West Bank annexation should not be carried out. He said the ruling was “an important victory for the Palestinians whose land was stolen by the settlers.”

Regarding the High Court decision, Yesh Din lawyer Michael Sfard, who represents 40 Palestinian local councils who demanded their land and refused compensation, said that it was highly significant that the justices also disqualified the law on grounds closer to what he recommended than on the grounds put forth by the attorney general. Sfard had argued that the status of the Israeli Military’s Central Commander as the sole legislator of the West Bank meant that the occupation army has defined the West Bank as being under the international law of belligerent occupation and therefore could not simply be altered by a piecemeal law passed by the Knesset.