Spitting at the Rule of Law

Even the most virulent critics of the 'rule of law gang' understand what trampling of court decisions by government authorities means.

At the offices of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel there is a blacklist of rulings by the High Court of Justice that have not been implemented. The list includes provision of protection for communities bordering the Gaza Strip, which has been delayed endlessly; the cessation of restrictions limiting foreign workers to a single employer; equalization of budgetary allocations to schools in the Arab sector; and an arrangement concerning the status of common-law spouses.

Of course, there is also the series of directives concerning adjustments to the route of the security fence. Indeed, last October, when it became apparent to Beinisch that there had been no action taken in the wake of her ruling from June 2006, which ordered removal of the barrier from lands belonging to the West Bank Palestinian village of Azun - she lost her cool. She informed Defense Minister Ehud Barak that a ruling handed down by the High Court is not merely "a recommendation."

True, Barak doesn't throw shoes in Beinisch's face. That's not how they behave at the Akirov Towers in Tel Aviv where he lives. Only members of the "hard left," the kind that demonstrate on a weekly basis next to the security fence that cuts through the village of Bil'in - and violates a High Court ruling - constitute a threat to the rule of law.

No fewer than three High Court decisions over a period of five years have been issued, ordering the state to build 245 classrooms in East Jerusalem to help relieve the shortage of over 1,000 rooms there. Why shouldn't Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has sworn to protect "United Jerusalem," visit one of the schools in the east of the city? It would be an outstanding opportunity to see up close how his government (like its predecessors) is implementing both the compulsory education law and how well it is respecting decisions of the High Court of Justice.

It's not construction and it's not shoes that are the issue: The important thing is that the premier will not consider stopping construction of the mikveh (ritual bath) in the new section of Jerusalem's Gilo neighborhood - even for a minute. So what if Beinisch objects? What can she do to him? Ask the police to arrest the prime minister for contempt of court? Send the Bailiff's Office representative to his home in Caesarea?

And while Netanyahu is in the neighborhood, why doesn't he pop in to Beit Yonatan, which the people from the Ateret Cohanim organization built without a permit six years ago in Silwan, an Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem? The legal adviser of the Jerusalem Municipality, Yossi Havilio, would be pleased to show him the seven-story building, which has been turned by Mayor Nir Barkat into a monument to the supremacy of law and justice in Israel. Barkat is spitting on four court rulings that reconfirm directives issued by other levels of jurisdiction to evacuate and seal that building.

Last weekend State Prosecutor Moshe Lador had to remind the capital's mayor that "in a country of laws, court orders must be implemented." The high-ranking prosecutor found it necessary to explain to the high-ranking elected official that in addition to the legal significance entailed in showing disrespect for court decisions, his conduct damages the fundamental norms of government and the strength of the democracy.

After they have fired off their volley of press releases about the guy who hit the justice in the face, everyone will put their heads back in the sand. The ministers, the mayors and the government clerks will all continue to spit in the face of the judicial system. It has become acceptable to criticize the rulings of the High Court of Justice and even to differ with the court's intervention over security matters. One can quibble with politicians who seek to push legislation that aims to circumvent High Court rulings. But even the most virulent critics of the "rule of law gang," as they are called by the detractors, understand the significance of the trampling of court decisions by government authorities.

The new attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein, should know that the burning issue today is not the thug who threw a shoe at the Supreme Court president's face. The challenge facing him is to take control of those in authority who are routinely spitting in her face.