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When Israel's Court has to prevent Palestinian land theft

The Israeli High Court will have to decide on the legality, constitutionality and morality of stealing Palestinian lands.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) speaks with Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem December 20, 2015. REUTERS/Gali Tibbon/Pool  - RTX1ZGHK
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Imagine the following: The head of a corporate legal department tells the CEO that his plan to take over a plot of privately owned land for use by the company could land him in hot water with the authorities. What would the CEO do if his erudite legal adviser were to declare that he would not be able to defend the firm against legal challenges to such a takeover? How many CEOs would dare ignore the warnings of their personally appointed legal counsel, at the same time shutting out thunderous criticism of the dubious move from all over the world? How many boards of directors would have authorized the CEO’s plan, allowing him to appoint outside counsel to defend the company against lawsuits by landowners seeking damages?

The scenario is analogous to the Regularization Bill adopted Feb. 7 by Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, allowing the State of Israel to take over private Palestinian lands in the West Bank. This law enables Israel to regularize the legal status of illegal Jewish settlements. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit — who also serves as the government’s legal adviser — has already made it abundantly clear to all concerned that in his view the bill is unconstitutional and contravenes international law. In capitals around the globe, Israel’s closest friends have for months protested against plans to push through the legislation. In a rare move, Mandelblit informed the court that he was recusing himself and would not be defending the state against petitions filed to annul the bill. The State of Israel is his client. His defeat is the state’s defeat. In another rare move, other relevant state-level legal advisers — of the Knesset and the Defense Ministry, as well as the military advocate general — also expressed opposition to the new law.

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