State: Implementation of Settlement Freeze Couldn't Have Waited

State responds to petitions arguing that cabinet didn't give the public an opportunity to debate the decision.

The State of Israel submitted its response on Thursday to three petitions filed with the court against the temporary freeze on construction in West Bank settlements, announced last month.

The petitioners argued that the inner cabinet, which decided on the freeze, was not authorized to make such a decision and that the ultimate decision was discriminatory. A third petition argued that the public was not given the opportunity to debate the freeze before the orders were handed down, and that there was no mechanism was in place to compensate those who suffered damages as a result of the decision.

The Palestinians have demanded that Israel halt construction of new buildings in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians seek for a future state, before they would be willing to resume peace negotiations.

The hearing on the petitions will be held next Wednesday. Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch will preside, as well as justices Ayala Procaccia and Neal Hendel.

In its response, the state writes that "over the last few months, we're been conducting exhaustive talks with the U.S. administration, which is also very interested in advancing the peace process. These talks have not come as far as to bear an agreed upon formula for the resumption of negotiations (with the Palestinians). In efforts to push the talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority forward, the inner cabinet decided to temporarily suspend new construction in Judea and Samaria. This move by the Israeli government received positive feedback from the American administration."

The state rejected the arguments of the petitioners, saying that the harm caused by the decision was proportionate and that a compensation mechanism would soon be established, and that the civil courts already offer citizens the opportunity to sue for damages.

In regard to charges that the cabinet failed to offer the public an opportunity to make its voice heard, the state responded that "We were afraid that if the order wasn't put into effect on the day that it was signed, massive construction would begin in the interim in efforts to create an indisputable reality. This massive construction would have resulted in that the diplomatic benefits at the basis of this decision would have not been achieved."

"Furthermore, this massive construction could cause damage to the diplomatic process, making the order more harmful than beneficial," the response continued.

Attorney Yossi Fuchs, who filed one of the petitions against the freeze, said Thursday that the state's response was insensitive and that it came out in defense of the "government's tyranny" by using draconian esoteric clauses that are befitting of wartime, and not applicable to civilian life.