Israel's Attorney General Opposes Legalizing Jordan Valley Outpost Before Election

Netanyahu aims to approve illegal outpost on Sunday, but Mendelblit warns of marrying 'election concerns' with 'actions that make use of state funds'

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, September 3, 2019.
Ilan Assayag

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit opposes a government proposal to approve the illegal outpost of Mevo'ot Yeriho in the Jordan Valley in the days leading up to Israel's election on Tuesday.

In his official legal opinion, published Thursday, Mendelblit said there is no urgency to approve the outpost two days before the election, and therefore a transitional government does not have the authority to make such a decision.

Mendelblit added that the timing of the decision "raises concerns that the proposal stems from, or at least appears to stem from, considerations of the upcoming election." Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that he will raise the issue in the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday.

Mendelblit wrote in the preface to his legal opinion that there is no pressing reason to establish new settlements in the Jordan Valley. The attorney general added that a transitional government must "act in moderation and with restraint when it comes to allocation of resources."

The attorney general said, "We must be careful to separate election and party concerns, or the optics of such considerations, from actions of the leadership that make use of state funds."

According to Mendelblit, in the days leading up to the election there must be extreme urgency to justify "an action by the leadership that exceeds the normal management of state affairs." He added that "this is a decision that arouses strong feelings in the international community, as well."

Mevo'ot Yeriho was established in 1999 as an agricultural plot and since then has grown to an outpost that houses 30 families, most of which live in portable caravans. The Jordan Valley Regional Council views Mevo'ot Yeriho as a settlement in their jurisdiction, despite the lack of an official decision to establish a settlement at that location.

The head of the regional council, David Elhayani, said in response to Mendelblit's decision, 'This is sad proof that Jewish settlement is mostly a matter of timing." Elhayani added, "The attorney general knows very well that over the years it has been attorney generals who have blocked the approval of Mevo'ot Yeriho."

On Tuesday, Netanyahu promised to extend Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea if elected.