You’re Living Under a State of Emergency and you Don’t Even Know it

The legal state of emergency in Israel is unique because many Israelis don’t even know it exists. In 1948, four days after the establishment of the state, the government granted itself state of emergency powers. Since then, they have used them to enact both security and economic measures. (When doing research about the legal state of emergency, you quickly find out the economic side because everyone cites the same ice cream regulations. Bet you didn’t know about the ice cream regulations!). After the war and then the skirmish and then the war followed by the war, the original state of emergency declaration was never rescinded. In fact, it gets extended every few months as it did on Monday for another 10 months.

In 2009, the government began to scale back the state of emergency regulations. At that time, 165 orders and 9 laws relied on the state of emergency and now, there remain only 21 and 6 respectively. You might think that these regulations must be important, but many of them do things like regulate the import of mosquito repellent. While it is the position of this blog that we should sell out every single democratic value we have in the name of killing mosquitoes, the Knesset should be responsible enough to pass these laws without taking advantage of the current “state of emergency”. Stranger, ordinances as basic as key labor laws are based on this state of emergency.

In addition to orders dealing with pudding (for real), the state of emergency also affects Israel’s security. For instance, the government can exert eminent domain which has been used to get land for military exercises and missile defense systems. It also allows for the defense minister to order the arrest of someone in certain circumstances and to prevent people from leaving the country.

During the debate on whether to extend the state of emergency, MK Avi Dichter mentioned that these regulations were necessary for Israel’s existence.  MK Masud Ganaim mocked the state of emergency saying “An hour ago, the Prime Minister described an Israel that was a Garden of Eden…so why do we need a state of emergency?” The truth is that they’re both right. The current state of affairs is both necessary and needs to change immediately. Laws should be left to the Knesset except in, well, states of emergency.


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