Beit El’s Ulpana neighborhood.
Beit El’s Ulpana neighborhood. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi
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Benjamin Netanyahu's government wrote another bleak chapter in the history of Israeli democracy yesterday. The High Court of Justice denied the state's request to reopen the hearing on demolishing the houses in Beit El's Ulpana neighborhood. It gave the state 60 days to dismantle these buildings in the West Bank settlement. The government had requested this move to let it update its outpost policy.

"Every time a policy is reexamined, will the state ask that we open a hearing that has already been ruled on?" High Court President Asher Grunis wondered aloud on Sunday. His answer: "A policy change is not sufficient grounds for reopening finalized proceedings."

The justices' comments should echo in every Israeli home. In a country that respects the rule of law and the court's rulings, High Court justices don't have to remind top law-enforcement officials that it is inconceivable to disrespect the country's top court.

As Justice Uzi Vogelman pointed out, reopening a hearing on a petition the High Court has already ruled on due to a government policy change is unprecedented. Justice Salim Joubran expressed his frustration with the state's turning such extraordinary requests into a matter of routine. He warned of the legal implications. Indeed, the Ulpana affair came up a few weeks after the High Court had rebuked the state in the harshest terms over its request for a three and a half year delay in evacuating the Migron outpost.

While in the Migron affair the state asked merely for a delay in carrying out the ruling, this time it asked for a revocation of the ruling and a relaunching of court proceedings. The request was based on the warped argument that the ruling was incompatible with the state's policy. There is no need to guess how the state would respond to an individual's or a company's request that the court relaunch proceedings on a ruling it had already issued, just so the individual or company could reshape policy.