Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch 311.
(photo credit: Dudi Vaknin / Pool)
Women’s and human rights groups are hoping that Supreme Court President Dorit
Beinisch and the High Court of Justice will overturn what they say is a
discriminatory law in her final High Court ruling.
pronounce her final judgement before her retirement in a special farewell
ceremony in the court on Tuesday, and has chosen to rule on three High Court
petitions that ask the court to overturn two articles of the Income Support Law,
which prevent people who own a car from receiving income support.
Income Support law stipulates that individuals and families not capable of
ensuring a basic minimum subsistence income are eligible for income support
payments, as long as they meet certain requirements.
However, the same
law states that “a vehicle owned or utilized by the insured person precludes
entitlement to benefits,” a clause which both civil and women’s rights groups
have vocally opposed, arguing that it harms weaker sections of the
Itach - Women Lawyers for Social Justice, Adalah, Sawt al-
Amel (“Worker’s Voice”) and the Legal Aid Department of the Justice Ministry
have all filed petitions against the National Insurance Institute (NII) and the
Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor.
As is common practice for
petitions on identical issues, the High Court decided to hear the petitions
together and will make a single ruling on all of them.
Adalah and Sawt
al-Amel filed their petition in 2004, on behalf of an Arab-Israeli man refused
income support by the NII even after he wrote asking permission to use a car to
transport his blind daughter to hospital for medical treatment.
filed their petition a year later, on behalf of five single mothers.
hope that tomorrow will be an historic day, especially for Israeli women in
poverty, who are the sector of the public most deserving of income support,”
said Itach director, attorney Keren Shemesh-Perlmutter, adding that the human
rights group wanted to thank Beinisch for choosing to end her career by ruling
on these particular petitions, which she said concern “one of the most
disempowered groups in Israeli society.”
The petitions sought to abolish
a law that unnecessarily harms one of the country’s weakest populations,
Shemesh- Perlmutter said, adding that the call to overturn the clauses was part
of the country’s continuing fight for social justice.
“We believe that
the people’s calls for ‘social justice,’ which we heard over the summer, will
also be heard tomorrow in the court, and that Beinisch will decide to answer
those calls,” she said.
Attorney Sawsan Zaher, director of Adalah’s
Social, Economic and Education Rights Unit, said on Monday that the petitions
“relate to social issues of primary importance.”
“We hope that the court
will accept the petitions, and that the clause is canceled,” Zaher
“That would be a historic ruling. The first of its kind in
terms of the legal protection of social rights.”
Adalah say in their
petition that the law particularly discriminates against Arab communities, where
there is a shortage of jobs and where public transport infrastructure is also
lacking, making it difficult for people to travel without a car.
written response to the petition in December, the NII and the state attorney’s
office argued that vehicle use per se does not necessarily preclude eligibility
for income support, and noted that there are certain exceptions and that the law
relates to permanent use of a car. The state said that use of a car involves
both fixed expenses, like insurance, and personal expenses like gas that vary
from person to person, meaning that the NII cannot make objective calculations
However, the petitioners argue that denying income support to
weaker populations – in Itach’s case, single mothers – simply because they had
the use of a car is “absurd.”
One of the five single mothers named on the
petition filed an affidavit to the court, saying that she was denied income
support even though she only used her parents’ car twice a week to do her
grocery shopping and to take her child to the Tipat Halav clinic, Itach
“With this ruling, Justice Beinisch will leave a deep imprint of
social values, which could signify a new social order, returning Israel to its
role as a welfare state,” Shemesh- Perlmutter concluded.