IN OTHER WORDS : Will and law in Israel

There is a partial victory for justice in Israel’s Supreme Court ruling that one stretch of the state’s security barrier in the West Bank must be relocated to protect the human rights of Palestinian villagers. In saying that Israel has to balance the requirements of security against the imperative of lawfulness, the high court sounded a magisterial note. If Wednesday’s decision of the three-judge panel is heard properly, it may teach Israelis a crucial lesson about the sources of their society’s true strength while at the same time suggesting to Palestinians how they can achieve the goal of an independent, state living in peace alongside Israel.

“Regarding the state’s struggle against the terror that rises up against it,” the justices wrote, “we are convinced that at the end of the day, a struggle according to the law will strengthen her power and her spirit.” The judges were telling their compatriots that Israel is stronger when the state acts in lawful ways. By implication, the judges were also warning that when Israeli authorities give in to the temptation to disregard the law, the ultimate effect can be to leave Israel less secure. It is not for a court to persuade Israelis to sacrifice settlements for security or Palestinians to end terrorism for the sake of their state. Only leaders can make those historic decisions. — The Boston Globe