Government to Back Bill Expanding Administrative Courts' Jurisdiction to West Bank Settlements

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Israeli soldiers keeping guard as Israeli children play outside the Beit Hadassah settlement in the West Bank city of Hebron, May 29, 2017.
Israeli soldiers keeping guard as Jewish children play outside the Beit Hadassah settlement in the West Bank city of Hebron, May 29, 2017.Credit: MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP

The government will support a draft law that would allow the country’s administrative affairs courts to rule on conflicts between Israelis living in settlements and state authorities operating in the territories. The Ministerial Committee on Legislation voted on Sunday to give official government backing to the bill.

The Administrative Affairs Courts Law of 2000 authorized Israel’s district courts to hear complaints by private individuals against government agencies, as a way of reducing the workload of the Supreme Court. An additional goal was to increase citizens’ access to legal recourse in these matters and to provide an additional forum for appeals.

These courts are not, however, authorized to hear cases involving disputes with a ruling by the Civil Administration or other state authorities operating in the territories by a resident of a settlement. These cases can only be heard in the Supreme Court.

Right-wing MKs are behind the bill, led by Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi).

The sponsors say the present situation has created a heavy caseload for the Supreme Court and discriminates against residents of the region whose access to the courts has been limited, whether because the initial petition is more difficult to file or because of the lack of a appeals court for administrative rulings.

“This is another step in the normalization of the settlement in Judea and Samaria, a goal we have set for ourselves at the beginning of the term,” said Smotrich.

The sponsors also want to expand the list of matters that can be brought before the administrative courts, including decisions by the military authorities in the West Bank.

“There is no reason at all the residents of Judea and Samaria are forced to go to the High Court of Justice for everything,” said Smotrich.

Such cases in the High Court are more complex and expensive, and are usually biased against the settlers, Smotrich added.

Their bill is one of several efforts by right-wing MKs to advance laws that in practice impose Israeli sovereignty on the settlements, and whose de facto meaning is annexation.

These include the Regularization Law, allowing the retroactive expropriation of privately owned Palestinian land on which settlements or settlement outposts have been built, in exchange for compensation.

A bill to annex Ma’aleh Adumim was recently blocked by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Smotrich and MK Yoav Kish recently proposed a bill annexing Betar Ilit, Efrat, Givat Ze’ev, the Gush Etzion settlements and Ma’aleh Adumim to Jerusalem.

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