Thursday, October 18, 2012

Elon Moreh: Menachem Begin and the Rule of Law

The material in our latest publication on the Elon Moreh verdict comes from one of the Archives' current projects on Menachem Begin, Israel's sixth prime minister – a collection of his letters and papers which we hope to publish in 2013, as a volume in the series of commemorative volumes about Israel's late presidents and prime ministers.

Biographers of Begin have noted that a main element in his worldview was the belief that the entire biblical Land of Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people, and they are entitled to settle in any part of it by right. He saw no contradiction between this belief and another strand of his ideology – his devotion to democracy and the rule of law. The Israel State Archives published several documents on this subject on our website in March 2012, to mark the 20th anniversary of Begin's death.

In the photograph below you can see Begin and Minister of Finance Simha Erlich with the Attorney-General, Prof. Yitzhak Zamir. Under Begin, the Attorney-General sat in on most government meetings.

Photograph: Chananiah Herman, Government Press Office
Begin's response to the Elon Moreh verdict is another striking example of his devotion to democracy and the rule of law. Many supporters of the settlement movement believed that the High Court decision ordering the evacuation of Elon Moreh should not be carried out. But although Begin must have been disappointed with the verdict, which contradicted the court's earlier decision on the Beit El settlement (which had caused him to exclaim "There are judges in Jerusalem!") there was no doubt in his mind that the decision had to be respected. In the first government meeting on the issue, on October 28 1979, he said: "Naturally we shall not make any announcements, which are completely unnecessary, saying that the Supreme Court's decision should be respected. They are unnecessary, because this goes without saying."

At the same time, he was anxious to find another site for the settlement on government land, which would be approved by the legal authorities. Eventually the Elon Moreh settlement group moved to its new site at Mt. Kabir.
The new settlement, 10 January 1980
Photograph: Chananiah Herman, Government Press Office

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