A Disgrace to the State of Israel

It is not every day that the High Court of Justice lambastes an attorney who is representing the government before it.

But yesterday's decision by a three-person panel - comprising Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch and justices Esther Hayut and Elyakim Rubinstein - that the continued paving of a road in violation of an injunction issued by the court was a "grave" act attests to the growth of a relatively new phenomenon: the violation of High Court orders.

Even the unusually strong language used by the justices both during the hearing and in their decision, which ordered the prosecution to "do its homework" on the issue, was understated, and must be attributed to the usual judicial habit of courtesy. Still, when Hayut told the government's attorney that "things are happening before your very eyes," and that for such work to be carried out on private land "doesn't look good," it was a clear sign that things were being done that should not be done.

The justices' decision should thus be seen as a warning to both the state and the attorneys of the High Court division of the State Prosecutor's Office - as well as to the state prosecutor and the attorney general, who are in charge of them - that they need to do a thorough housecleaning, and that they must check the veracity of the information they are given.

For some time now, it has seemed as if the state prosecution were defending positions in the High Court that at times were unreasonable and unjustifiable, and at times made it seem as if everyone in government agencies were doing as he pleased, with no fear of the law or its representatives to restrain him. This was not the case in the past: Then, every government office would heed instructions from the state prosecution or the attorney general and scrupulously obey orders issued by the High Court, whether temporary injunctions or final rulings.

But over the last few years there has been a dangerous decline in the attention government agencies pay to rulings by the High Court, whose job is to apply the rule of law to these agencies. Rulings that are noteworthy for the government's failure to carry them out include ones ordering it to redefine the state's national priority zones in a manner that eliminates discrimination against Arab towns; to build classrooms in East Jerusalem; to abolish the rules that bind a foreign worker to one particular employer; to move the separation fence near the village of Bili'in and in other areas in order to avoid disproportionate harm to Palestinian residents of the West Bank; to end discrimination among students at a girls' school in Immanuel on the basis of their ethnic origin.

The fact that the High Court and the district courts, which also hear petitions against the state, are forced to issue contempt of court rulings in such cases is a disgrace to the State of Israel and to every part of Israel society.