(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Facing a wave of lawsuits in the labor courts, Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein said on Thursday that the state would extend certain benefits to Arabs who were Israeli residents, but not citizens, and who live in areas such as Sur Bahir in east Jerusalem on the Israeli side of the West Bank security barrier.
Weinstein’s said that the residents, who are in a legal “noman’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 healthcare 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.
The spokesman declined to answer questions about the greater implications of Weinstein’s statement.
With the barrier in place, it has become either impractical or impossible for many of these Arabs to access healthcare and other services in the Palestinian areas.
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.
The decision only applies to Arabs who lived in the “noman’s land” before the wall was erected, since the state believed their lives were hurt by an event that they could not have foreseen.
Those who moved to the “no-man’s land” after the barrier was erected are considered to have had notice of the challenges of living in the area.
Before Thursday’s decision, it was unclear what these Arabs’ rights were as they were Israeli residents, but not citizens.
Weinstein’s decision clears up the confusion, provides them a solution and was submitted to the labor courts as a proposed resolution of the lawsuits.
The statement was extremely vague on background and implications, suggesting that the issue may be a point of dispute within the government.