The controversial law that allows small towns to screen applicants for residency is set to take effect within the next few days. Civil rights activists are concerned, however, that restrictions stipulated in the law regarding which communities can choose their members may not be enforced.

The admissions committees law was passed in the Knesset about a month and a half ago, after undergoing a number of revisions. Ultimately, it was decided that admissions committees would only be allowed to operate in small communities in the Galilee and the Negev that have no more than 400 families and that are officially registered as communal associations.

It turns out, however, that screening committees that existed in towns before the law was passed may still be allowed to operate, even if these towns do not fit the criteria stipulated in the law. A position paper published this week by legal advisers representing the communal associations found that the new law does not replace the existing law (decision 1195 of the Israel Lands Administration council ). Therefore, according to this interpretation, communities that do not meet criteria stipulated by the new law can continue to operate admissions committees.

Civil rights activists are now concerned that screening committees will continue to be used widely to bar potential residents considered undesirable, such as non-Jews, same sex couples and single parents.

The admissions committees law was legislated in response to a report in Haaretz 18 months ago about screening procedures used by communal settlements in the Western Galilee's Misgav regional council.

After the law was passed, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI ), along with Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, petitioned the High Court in an attempt to stave off its implementation. ACRI and Adalah also demanded clarification regarding communities that do not fit the criteria stipulated in the law.

Representing the registrar of communal associations, attorney Tal Bar-On wrote several days ago that the new law does not prevent the operation of screening committees at communal settlements that do not meet the criteria stipulated in the new law.

In response, ACRI attorney Gil Gan-Mor sent a letter to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, demanding his immediate intervention on the grounds that the communal associations registrar's interpretation was mistaken.