Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman.
Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman. Photo by Emil Salman
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An amendment to the Civil Law Procedure Regulations, which is slated to go into effect next month, is ostensibly a technical adjustment. Under the regulation, anyone who submits legal documents to a court must list his Israeli ID number or foreign passport number on the documents.

But this will mean that lawsuits cannot be filed in Israeli courts by anyone who doesn't have a passport or Israeli ID number, which constitutes a significant change from the current situation. The amendment is liable to block Palestinians who live in the territories, who have no passport, as well as asylum-seekers and migrant workers, who have no passport or citizenship documents, from filing civil suits.

Although the Civil Law Procedure Regulations do not apply to administrative proceedings (including petitions to the High Court of Justice ), or to the labor courts, the amendment could prevent someone from turning to the courts to make a financial claim, or from suing for breach of contract or damages.

Access to the judicial system is a basic right in Israeli and international law. The High Court of Justice has declared it "the cornerstone of the rule of law," and "the lifeline of the court." Courts have ruled, justifiably, that any person who finds himself in Israel, no matter what the context, no matter what his religion or nationality, has the right to initiate a legal proceeding here.

Without access to the courts, a person cannot enforce his rights. The restriction, as is stated in the new amendment, is likely to leave the weakest populations defenseless. This follows another legislative proposal, under which anyone whose entry to Israel is refused would not have his legal challenge heard until he has left the country. These both point to a worrisome trend of eroding access to the courts and an erosion of the rule of law.

The Justice Ministry must cancel the amendment that will block stateless people's access to the courts. If not, the High Court of Justice will be forced to strike it down, and one will be left to conclude that the Justice Ministry cannot be bothered with a "cornerstone of the rule of law."