The motivation for the recent bill sponsored by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, one that takes the authority to hear West Bank Palestinians’ petitions away from the High Court of Justice and gives it to the Jerusalem District Court, was summed up by the minister on her Facebook page. As a result of the bill, she wrote, “The automatic running to the High Court by Palestinians and left-wing associations funded with foreign money will stop.”
The meaning of the draft bill approved Sunday by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation is that the High Court will no longer be the court of first instance for Palestinian responses to Israeli decisions on planning and construction, entry and exit from the territories, and freedom of information requests. The revolution created by this legislation is aimed at making it even more difficult for Palestinians who are harmed by government actions.
What’s more, Shaked’s promise that the new bill will reduce the pressure on the court isn’t persuasive, since no one is promising that these cases won’t eventually be appealed up to the Supreme Court. Shaked simply can’t stand the High Court’s intervention against the land theft and illegal construction on Palestinian lands, intervention that has already led to the demolition of settlers’ homes and the return of the private land on which those homes were built to the landowners, as happened in Amona and Netiv Ha’avot. Shaked wants to put a barrier between the Palestinians and the High Court of Justice in the form of the Jerusalem District Court.
In 2000 the Law on Administrative Affairs Courts was passed, under which certain legal issues on which the law is clear and consistent, with no need for frequent updates, were moved from the High Court of Justice to the district courts. But any case with a fundamental aspect, or that deals with the decisions of the central government, is still heard by the justices of the highest court.
In the case of the Palestinians, who are subject to military rule in an area under occupation, their fear of having their human rights undermined is realized on a daily basis, hence the importance of allowing the High Court to continue handling their petitions. The purpose of this was to give appropriate weight to international law, to the inequalities practiced by the government, and to Israel’s obligation to uphold the Palestinians’ rights. These principles, which are seen by the current government as obstacles to total, hostile control of the territories, aren’t usually dealt with in the district court.
Shaked argues, “What’s no less important is ending the discrimination against residents of Judea and Samaria. Their rights must be equal to the rights of any other citizen.” Shaked’s cynicism has no limits. In a place where there is no equality between the status of a Palestinian resident and that of an Israeli one, and a huge gap separates the rights of the two groups of residents, the government is obligated to actually protect the rights of those subject to occupation. This new legislation should be shelved immediately.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.