Defense Minister Yoav Gallant acted against legal precedent by denying Palestinians entry to Israel to participate in a binational Remembrance Day ceremony, Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara said in a legal opinion to the High Court of Justice on Friday afternoon.
“From a legal perspective, there is no room to deviate from the outline that was drawn by previous rulings,” wrote the Attorney-General’s Office.
Baharav-Miara’s opinion came in response to a Wednesday petition filed by NGOs Combatants for Peace and the Parents Circle-Families Forum against Gallant’s April 13 decision on permits for the Israeli-Palestinian memorial service.
The petitioners had noted that the High Court had previously ruled in favor of allowing Palestinian entry for the ceremony under the condition of individual examination.
“The previous ministers’ decisions not to allow Palestinians to enter the ceremony were brought to the scrutiny of the court on two different occasions, which found that these decisions should be overturned,” the Attorney-General’s Office said.
"“The previous ministers’ decisions not to allow Palestinians to enter the ceremony were brought to the scrutiny of the court on two different occasions, which found that these decisions should be overturned,”Gali Baharav-Miara
In 2017, the participant’s entry permits were revoked several days before the ceremony but in 2018 and 2019, the court ruled in favor of permissions for the Palestinians. The Defense Ministry had then reasoned that their entry would harm the feelings of bereaved families – which the court noted ignored the wishes of the mourning Israeli families that wanted the Palestinians to participate.
The previous Defense Ministry decisions also invoked a blanket security closure that had been leveled against the West Bank and Gaza Strip over Remembrance Day and Independence Day. The petition also noted that the court had said that while the Defense Ministry had broad discretion in granting permits, it was by no means unlimited and had to be exercised in a reasonable manner.
Denial of permits
Gallant had reasoned his denial of permits on the current security situation and a general closure of the West Bank. On Wednesday, the IDF declared a closure of the West Bank and Gaza that would start three hours before the joint Israeli-Palestinian ceremony on April 24. The closure was set to continue through Remembrance Day and Independence Day and be lifted on April 26 at midnight, subject to the security situation.
“No professional or factual infrastructure was presented to justify [Gallant’s] deviation from previous High Court rulings in the ban on Palestinian attendance in the ceremony,” the attorney-general wrote.
In addition to the court’s previous ruling on individual examination for permits, the attorney-general said it was difficult to use security justifications for a blanket closure when other Palestinians were given exceptions.
“It should be noted that even during Remembrance Day and Independence Day, thousands of Palestinians will be allowed to enter Israel or the Seam Line,” Baharav-Miara wrote.
The defense minister was made aware of the issues raised in the petitions but did not change his position, the Attorney-General’s Office said. The office said that the ministry and other relevant bodies should respond to the petition and attorney-general opinion on Sunday.
“The government’s attempt through Minister Gallant to act predatorily against the court and the attorney-general is made on the backs of bereaved families,” said Combatants for Peace, one of the organizing bodies of the ceremony. “An unfortunate decision against those who call for peace and hope. We hope that he will answer in light of the state’s position.”
The upcoming Israeli-Palestinian ceremony is set to be the 18th such memorial. According to the Wednesday petition, about 4,000 Israelis and 180 Palestinians were invited and registered to attend the memorial service.