Emergency Regulations Cannot Replace National Policy

The Emergency Regulations Law in Judea and Samaria was passed today by the government, but still needs to be brought back to the Knesset plenum. This ongoing saga exposes the decades-long failure of Israeli governments to formulate policy for Judea and Samaria.

Last week, the Knesset plenum voted down what has been a standard piece of legislation for some five decades. The first reading of the bill to extend emergency regulations in Judea and Samaria for another five years failed to pass, for the first time since 1967: 52 MKs voted in favor, 58 opposed.

The emergency regulations apply Israeli law to citizens living in Judea and Samaria, and mainly concern the powers of Israel’s judiciary and executive branches regarding Israelis who have committed crimes in Judea and Samaria, including areas under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction. These regulations make it possible for Israel to carry out orders and enforce punishments on Israeli citizens and creates a framework for legal cooperation between Israel and the relevant arms of the Palestinian Authority.

The emergency regulations will expire at the end of this month, which may complicate matters for law enforcement authorities as well as for the residents of Judea and Samaria. In the opinion of the Deputy Attorney General, “This will create legal and practical difficulties in conducting complex or joint investigations, which is a significant factor and a vital element of the powers vested in the Military Governor, impacting governance of the area and maintenance of public order and security.”

The real story here is the ongoing failure of Israeli governments to formulate policy, to articulate a national vision, and to demonstrate governance. The only thing that has prevented Israeli governments since 1967 from applying Israeli law in Judea and Samaria is their own reticence – actually, their timidity. This has led to a chaotic reality that harms the security and quality of life of the residents of Judea and Samaria, Jews and Arabs alike, and the security of the State of Israel as a whole.

These regulations deal mainly with criminal law and civil rights. The various technical clauses reveal the official policy of the State of Israel to criminality in Judea and Samaria, but what they do not include may be even more telling: In completely ignoring the issues of proprietary rights – real estate law and ownership – they lay bare the government’s failure to protect the basic rights of the State and its citizens. Proprietary rights in Judea and Samaria remain under the Jordanian and Ottoman systems, and these laws are outdated, ineffective and in some cases even antisemitic. Even worse, perhaps, is the selective manner in which these laws are enforced by the Israeli judicial and military systems.

Selective enforcement of outrageously outdated laws has enabled – and continues to enable – the Palestinian Authority to exploit the Israeli system, to annex vast areas of Judea and Samaria, to redraw the map, and to lead the entire region toward violent confrontation. Continued reliance on emergency legislation may be the lesser of evils, but it is most certainly not the solution.

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