Israel's High Court of Justice.
(photo credit: ISRAELTOURISM / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee approved legislation Wednesday that would limit Palestinian access to the High Court of Justice with regard to land cases.
The legislation has advanced after a first reading, but needs to return to the plenum for a second and third reading before it becomes law.
Right-wing politicians have argued that the law reduces the High Court’s heavy caseload and helps normalize land issues in Area C of the West Bank by sending them to district courts, which handle such matters within sovereign Israel.
Those lower courts would also hear cases regarding travel permits, restraining orders barring individuals from regions of the West Bank and freedom-of-information petitions.
MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi) welcomed the bill’s advancement. It comes amid a number of legislative pushes to authorize illegal settler homes, including the transformation of 70 outposts into new neighborhoods or settlements.
Palestinians, with the help of leftwing Israeli nongovernmental groups, have increasingly turned to the High Court to protest settler construction on private Palestinian property. Settlers have complained that the High Court is a limited venue because it can only adjudicate procedural claims and does not investigate ownership claims.
Smotrich said the transfer of these administrative petitions in Judea and Samaria from the High Court of Justice to the District Courts is an important stage in the normalization of settler life by creating an equivalency between legislation for Judea and Samaria and that which exists within sovereign Israel.
It also depoliticizes the legal process, he added.
Left-wing groups have argued that the law is part of a series of steps right-wing politicians have taken to annex the West Bank. They have further said that it will be harder for the Palestinians to access the District Courts.