Israel's High Court of Justice.
(photo credit: ISRAELTOURISM / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
The Knesset is to hold a final controversial vote this week on legislation that limits Palestinian access to the High Court of Justice and is seen as the latest step toward de-facto annexation of the West Bank.
The move is part of an attempt by right-wing politicians to prevent the demolition of illegal settler homes and to ensure that Jews living in Judea and Samaria enjoy the same access to the lower courts as those who live within sovereign Israel.
“The rights of Judea and Samaria residents are no less important than the rights of citizens within the Green Line,” said Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked who authored the bill.
It would also reduce the Supreme Court’s heavy case load, she added.
Shaked spoke after the Knesset Constitution, Justice and Law Committee on Sunday voted 8-7 to send the bill to the plenum for a second and third reading.
“This is the law of annexation,” charged MK Karin Elharar (Yesh Atid) at the committee meeting.
MK Karin Elharar (Yesh Atid) said: “This is the law of annexation. If you are brave enough to annex, then do so to the end.”
Army representatives, who testified before the committee, said they did not understand the efficiency of the law.
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MK Michal Rozin (Meretz) said: “This is an attempt to prevent Palestinians from demanding rights to their land.”
It also allows for land “theft,” Rozin said, adding that the legislation was right-wing payback for the High Court-ordered demolitions of the Amona outpost and 15 homes in the Netiv Ha’avot outpost.
Committee chairman MK Nissan Slomiansky (Bayit Yehudi) said: “The residents of Judea and Samaria are equal to those in Tel Aviv and they should have the same legal system.”
The legislation transfers land cases from the High Court of Justice to Administrative Courts, by expanding their ability to hear legal cases outside of the judicial purview of sovereign Israel.
Shaked’s office said the bill offers “normalization of the Judea and Samaria region” and halts discrimination against Jewish residents of the area by the High Court, which does not investigate land status and is therefore limited to ruling on what information the state possesses.
To date, the burden of proof has been on the defendant, Shaked’s office said. The transfer of the cases to Administrative Court would place the burden of proof on the defendant, Shaked said.
Aside from issues regarding illegal settler building, the bill also transfers appeals of decisions by the Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria to the Administrative Court.
In addition, the bill also transfers cases dealing with entry and exit visas, freedom of information and restraining orders.
As part of the debate, the law committee rejected 447 requests for the committee to reevaluate the bill.
Last year, the Knesset passed another significant piece of legislation that also sought to halt settler home demolitions. The settlement regulation law retroactively authorizes illegal settler homes on private Palestinian property in exchange for monetary compensation to the Palestinian land owner.
The High Court of Justice is adjudicating the legality of that law.
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