Israel Passes New Law Limiting Palestinians' Access to Court

Administrative petitions will now be transferred to the Jerusalem District Court instead of the High Court. Justice Minister: Petition party is over for Palestinians and extreme leftists

A Jewish settler speaks on the phone as Palestinians take part in a protest against a new Jewish settlement outpost near Hebron in the West Bank, June 26, 2018.
\ MUSSA ISSA QAWASMA/ REUTERS

Israel passed on Tuesday a law that limits the High Court of Justice's authority to hear petitions filed by Palestinians in the West Bank. Administrative petitions will now be transferred to the Jerusalem District Court instead. 

The law is meant to hamper Palestinian petitions against Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank. 

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"The High Court petition party of Palestinians and extreme left organization against the settlements in Judea and Samaria is over today," Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said. "From now on they will have to go through the judicial hurdle like any other Israeli citizen."

Up until the passage of the law, the High Court was the court of first instance for West Bank Palestinians' petitions, rather than the district courts, as it is for Israeli citizens living in sovereign Israel.

Shaked also said the law "normalizes" the lives of Jewish settlers. "The Knesset relayed an important message: The residents of Judea and Samaria are inseparable from the citizens of Israel."

Instead of the High Court, district courts will now have jurisdiction to discuss West Bank Palestinian petitions regarding restraining orders barring individuals from regions of the West Bank, travel permits, planning and construction and freedom-of-information petitions. Palestinians will still be able to appeal district court rulings to the Supreme Court.

In Israel, the same justices sit on both the High Court of Justice and the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is the country's highest appeals court while the High Court functions as a trial court involving issues of justice that do not fall under the jurisdiction of any other court. Primarily, it deals with petitions against the State.

Many of the petitions that reach the High Court of Justice have to do with unauthorized West Bank Jewish outposts constructed on private Palestinian land. The High Court only adjudicates procedural claims and does not investigate ownership claims or look into evidence, which the district court would do.

The law's sponsors also argued that the law would reduce the High Court’s heavy caseload and would not deprive petitioners from appealing their cases to the Supreme Court.