The National Labor Court on Thursday endorsed a controversial government
decision made in April to extend certain benefits to Arabs who, prior to 2004,
were Israeli residents – but not citizens – living in areas such as Sur Bahir in
east Jerusalem on the Israeli side of the West Bank security barrier, while not
extending them to Arabs who moved to the area after 2004.
The court said
that the distinction was logical because the state was solving an issue for
Arabs who were in the area before 2004, since the barrier created logistical
issues for them to have access to Palestinian hospitals, but not for Arabs who
moved to the area after 2004, already knowing that the barrier was
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein said in April that the
residents, who are in a legal “no-man’s-land” by virtue of living in an area
still defined by most of the world as the disputed West Bank, but on the Israeli
side of the barrier, had sued Israel for certain benefits and services, such as
Israel began erecting the barrier in 2002, during the
second intifada, and it has been credited with heavily reducing terrorist
attacks emanating from the West Bank.
The barrier has been criticized by
the International Court of Justice and other international players and states
and has led to rampant litigation before the High Court of Justice to resolve
many direct and indirect logistical problems that it created.
things, said a Justice Ministry spokesman, Weinstein’s announcement was designed
to address one of these logistical problems: a legal “no-man’s land” where some
Arabs were unable to access their prior health-care centers and other services
in the Palestinian Authority areas, but, until now, also had no right to the
services in Israel since they were only residents and not
Weinstein’s executive decision permits these Arabs on the
Israeli side of the barrier to get the care and services they need in Israel,
where they do not need to cross the barrier.
Before Weinstein’s April
decision, it was unclear what these Arabs’ rights were, as they are Israeli
residents but not citizens.