High Court: Israeli Labor Laws to Apply to Palestinians Who Work in Settlements

Israeli labor laws will be applied to Palestinians working in West Bank settlements, the High Court of Justice decided yesterday in a precedent-setting ruling.

A panel of nine justices ruled on a petition submitted by Kav LaOved Worker's Hotline, and two Palestinians working for Israeli employers in the West Bank.

The Palestinian petitioners worked for the local council of Givat Ze'ev and various private companies, and demanded the rights extended to workers in Israel, including minimum wage, severance pay and various social benefits.

"This issue has extensive implications for all the workers employed in Israeli settlements in the territories and its solution affects the relations between Israeli employers in the territories and both Israeli and Palestinian workers," wrote Justice Eliezer Rivlin in the unanimous ruling.

The High Court overturned a ruling of the National Labor Court, which stipulated that the law applying to Palestinian workers is the territories' law, rather than Israeli law.

However, attorneys Alexander Spinard and Nava Pinchuk-Alexander of Kav LaOved argued that according to the employment contracts in Israeli settlements, both sides intended the Israeli law to apply to them.

"The territorial affiliation could have led to the conclusion that Jordanian law is the law governing Palestinian workers, since the location of the employment is in the territories," Rivlin wrote.

However, in the absence of a clear agreement between both sides, we should aspire to apply an equal and identical law to all workers for equal work, he continued.

This position gained the support of the Histadrut labor federation, but was opposed by Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, who joined the case when it was already underway.

Justice Salim Joubran stressed the importance of equality.

"The Labor Court's ruling implies that the only distinction between the Palestinian and Israeli workers is that the former are Palestinians, residents of the Palestinian Authority. This distinction on the basis of nationality is improper and tantamount to discrimination ... applying a foreign law to Palestinian workers and the Israeli law to Israeli ones infringes on the Palestinians' basic rights and discriminates against them, although they all work together," he wrote.