In Rare Move, Knesset C'tee Pushes for Applying New City Elections Bill in Settlements – Within Weeks

If passed in plenum, the proposed law – part of right-wing efforts to implement Israeli law in the West Bank – would take effect before upcoming municipal election campaigns

Knesset Interior Committee chairman MK Yoav Kish (Likud), February 20, 2018.
Olivier Fitoussi

In a rare and rushed move, the Knesset may pass a new municipal elections law that will be applied to this year’s elections in the West Bank – even though the proposal has not yet been approved in the plenum. Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri promised the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee on Monday that the amendment to the law will be applied to the settlements within two weeks, after receiving an order to that effect from the head of the Israel Defense Forces' Central Command, Maj. Gen. Nadav Padan.

This is an exceptional step that is part of efforts by the right-wing parties to impose Israeli law on the settlements. Generally, such orders by the IDF commander in the West Bank take quite a long time – measured in years and not in weeks – to be approved and implemented after the corresponding legislation has been passed by the Knesset. But in this case the military and the Justice Ministry have apparently responded to pressure from Interior Committee chairman MK Yoav Kish (Likud) to act immediately.

In this case, the rushed legislative effort is aimed at implementation of the new law before the campaigns begin for municipal elections, which are scheduled for late October. The bill would alter existing local election regulations in terms of determining who is entitled to run for city councils and for mayor, as well as the rules concerning voter registration and how the polling stations are to be run.

Many laws passed by the Knesset are applied to the West Bank, by dint of orders issued by the area's IDF commander.

The Knesset was informed in January that because of a manpower shortage, the IDF’s Civil Administration in the West Bank, which is responsible for framing these laws as specific legal orders, cannot keep up with the pace of legislation in the Knesset. The number of employees in the Civil Administration has dropped from over 400 to less than 200 in recent years.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked complained in January that some laws are never translated into such orders, and that sometimes it takes up to a decade after certain legislation is passed to be implemented in the West Bank.

Kish had initially blocked the legislative progress of the new municipal election bill, saying he would not allow it to advance after the vote in his committee until it was clear that it would also be implemented in the settlements and how and when this would be done.

“There should be no more discrimination in legislation between the Knesset and Judea and Samaria. The legislature clearly intends that laws that are passed by the Knesset will apply simultaneously in Judea and Samaria, too,” said Kish during Monday’s session.

After Nizri informed the committee of the plan to implement the proposal in the West Bank too, the committee approved the bill and sent it to the full Knesset for the final votes.

In a similar vein, in January, Kish also tried to include a new section in the Knesset regulations that would require parliamentary committees to examine how to apply every proposed law to the settlements as well. It was decided at that time, however, to adopt the suggestion of the Knesset’s legal adviser, Eyal Yinon, to instruct the legal advisers of all Knesset committees to examine how each proposed law would apply in the West Bank as part of their debate over every new bill.

That discussion, Yinon added, must focus on whether to implement the new law in the West Bank as part of the legislation itself, or to make it dependent on an order from the head of the Central Command.

"The proper way to apply the laws in Judea and Samaria," said Yinon, "is through the orders of the IDF command.”