Last week, three High Court justices - Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, Justice Esther Hayut, and Justice Elyakim Rubinstein - demanded the state explain why construction has continued on a road connecting the West Bank settlement of Eli with the illegal outpost of Hayovel, despite a High Court injunction ordering work to halt.
Violations of High Court decisions are the latest manifestation of contempt for the rule of law. In the late 1970s, when the High Court ordered the settlement of Elon Moreh evacuated, then-prime minister Menachem Begin considered the order indisputable. A decade ago, Rubinstein, who also served as cabinet secretary and attorney general, wrote in his book "B'nativei mishpat u'memshal" that the authorities unquestionably obey High Court rulings. Thus, the deviations are a product of recent years.
"It is inconceivable that the state does not know what is unfolding right underneath its nose," the justices stated during the hearing. Their statements are a signal for the state prosecutor's office to carefully vet the data provided by government agencies it represents. Prosecutors must also review whether positions are worthy of defending before the court.
This dangerous change in the authorities' attitude toward High Court rulings is evident on a number of fronts. Several years ago, the court decided to reject the government's policy of granting preferential education budgets to "areas of national priorities." The court determined that the government overstepped its authority, and that the plan would have brought discrimination against the state's Arab citizens. That ruling has not been enforced. Other court rulings ordered an end to the "binding arrangement" between an employer and a migrant worker, demanded changes to the West Bank separation fence route in order to prevent disproportionate harm to Palestinian residents, and ordered an end to the ethnicity-based segregation at a girls' religious school in Emmanuel. The list continues.
The High Court has thus far refrained from stating that those who ignore its rulings are in contempt of court; instead, the Supreme Court president and other judges have made statements citing the state's duty to uphold legal decisions - "an unassailable obligation necessary for ensuring proper order and safeguarding the rule of law in our system of government."
Ultimately, the executive branch is responsible for enforcing court rulings. Failure to do so endangers a polarized society, one where applying the law equally to all is a precondition for existence.
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