Israeli Justice Minister Aims to Curb High Court’s Authority in West Bank

Ayelet Shaked has drafted legislation that would remove the High Court as the trial court on the other side of the Green Line

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked speaking at Ben-Gurion University, November 2017.
Ilan Assayag

West Bank Palestinians who want to go to court on certain administrative matters would be required to go first to the Jerusalem District Court, not the High Court of Justice, a proposal by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaket that would pare the top court’s authority in the occupied territories.

On Thursday, Shaked sent such a draft to her colleagues at the Justice Ministry. It would still be possible to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

Shaked said the move, which would remove the High Court as the trial court in the West Bank, would reduce the High Court’s heavy case load. But she wrote on Facebook that the bill would also stop “Palestinians and left-wing nonprofits funded by foreign money” from trying to use the High Court to halt government actions they disapprove of.

“I can say so much more about reducing the load of the High Court of Justice, but reducing this burden isn’t the only important thing here. The important story is the ability to determine the facts [of a case] correctly. The High Court of Justice isn’t designed to carry out a factual investigation,” Shaked wrote.

“The legal proceedings concerning Amona and Netiv Ha’avot show how important it is to delve down into the details of the Palestinian claims,” she added, referring to two illegal outposts.

The Jerusalem District Court would hear such cases as an administrative court. “An administrative court is the address that allows for an examination of the facts without sufficing with offhand ownership claims that aren’t supported by evidence,” Shaked said.

She was referring to the High Court ruling that unauthorized structures in Amona and Netiv Ha’avot must be demolished. The High Court has rejected the government’s many attempts to postpone the demolitions in order to legalize the structures.

The draft of Shaked's bill was submitted by Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber, who is responsible for allocating responsibility between the High Court and district courts – a process that began back in 2000. This means Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit has ruled that there is no legal reason to prevent such a law from being enacted.