Israeli Cabinet Panel to Consider Bill Barring High Court Petitions on Behalf of Palestinians

The proposed law, which the Ministerial Committee for Legislation will consider on Sunday, would restore a prior rule requiring that petitioners have been directly harmed by policies that they challenge

The evacuation of the synagogue in the outpost of Amona
Gil Cohen-Magen

A bill that would bar nongovernmental organizations from petitioning the High Court of Justice on behalf of Palestinians will be debated by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday.

The bill is being proposed following the wave of court petitions filed seeking the evacuation of settlements built on privately owned Palestinian land in the West Bank, notably Migron, and more recently, in February of this year, the outpost of Amona.

The bill would bar Knesset members from petitioning the court to challenge cabinet decisions and laws passed by the Knesset and would provide that no individual, organization or public agency could petition the court to challenge a government action unless that action directly and personally harmed either the individual petitioner, members of the petitioning organization or an interest that a public agency is entrusted to upholding.

Essentially, it would reinstate a rule that was the norm in Israeli courts until the 1980s, under which only someone who is directly and personally harmed by a government action could challenge it in court.

The bill’s sponsors include members of almost all the parties in the government coalition. Among them are David Bitan and Miki Zohar (Likud), Moti Yogev and Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi), Akram Hasoon (Kulanu) and Oded Forer (Yisrael Beiteinu).

The bill is aimed primarily at left-wing organizations such as Yesh Din, Peace Now and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which routinely petition the court on behalf of Palestinians. It was prompted partly by the fact that such petitions have repeatedly led to the evacuation of neighborhoods of West Bank settlements and illegal outposts that were built on privately owned Palestinian land.

David Shain, head of Likud’s youth wing, partnered with the Movement for Governability and Democracy to push legislators to submit the bill.

“Radical left-wing organizations like Peace Now and Yesh Din file petitions against settlements in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] night and day when they have no connection to the issue,” Shain said. “In the case of Migron, the community was evacuated without anyone proving ownership of the site. We’ve arrived at an absurd situation in which anyone can petition the court over anything he pleases. It’s time to put an end to that.”

Shain said the bill would also promote the separation of powers by preventing MKs from going to court to challenge laws the Knesset itself had passed.

The bill’s explanatory notes argue that petitions by those not directly harmed "circumvent the elected government’s powers and the voters' decisions.”