Vote on Bill Blocking High Court Petitions on Behalf of Palestinians Expected to Be Deferred

The bill, which requires petitioners to be personally affected by the matter in their claim, is expected to be postponed at Finance Minister Kahlon's request

The High Court of Justice discusses Israel's natural gas deal, February 3, 2016.
Emil Salman

A Knesset committee is expected to defer reviewing a bill preventing Israeli human rights groups from petitioning the High Court of Justice on behalf of Palestinians, after opposition voiced by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon.

The bill, up for consideration by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday, was proposed following a wave of court petitions filed on behalf of Palestinians claiming that homes of Jewish settlers in the West Bank had been built on privately-owned Palestinian land, particularly in the outposts of Amona and Migron.

The committee cannot reject or accept a bill but decides whether it will be supported by the coalition. Their review of the bill will likely be delayed by three weeks.

The bill deals with the right of standing – who is entitled to petition the High Court – and is sponsored by a number of lawmakers, including Likud's David Bitan and Miki Zohar. It would bar the court from hearing claims filed by individuals, organizations or public authorities if the petitioners or at least some of the organization's members did not directly suffer from the damages they allege in the claim. The bill would also bar lawmakers from challenging Knesset legislation or cabinet decisions that do not relate to them directly.

For example, petitions such as the one filed by the Zionist Union party challenging a law that imposes a special tax on owners of three or more homes would no longer be allowed.

The bill would actually restore a rule regarding standing that previously existed in Israel.

Although members of Kahlon's Kulanu party are among the bill's sponsors, the finance minister is opposed to it. Sources have told Haaretz that in light of a provision in the current coalition agreement that gives Kahlon the right to block such legislation, his opposition could kill the bill entirely.

In addition to legislators from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and Kahlon's Kulanu, the bill's sponsors include lawmakers from Habayit Hayehudi and Yisrael Beiteinu.

David Shain, the head of Likud’s youth wing, partnered with the Movement for Governability and Democracy to lobby 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. “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.”

Mordechai Kremnitzer and Amir Fuchs of the Israel Democracy Institute sent a legal opinion to cabinet ministers in which they said that the bill would do damage to rule of law and public interest in Israel and could also provide an opening for government corruption. “If the bill passes, a situation will be created in which it won’t be possible to file petitions challenging government corruption, illegal government action or matters of principle regarding the operation of government institutions and human rights issues,” the opinion stated.

As an example, the two cited a situation in which an attorney general decides to close a criminal corruption investigation in a move that appears unreasonable. If the bill passes, only those who directly suffer from the action would be able to seek the court’s review of the decision.