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 there.

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 health insurance.

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.

Among other 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 citizens.

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.

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