High Court: Not enough Arabs, women in top government posts

Beinisch orders state to address issue during hearing responding to petition filed by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Itach Women Lawyers for Social Justice.

dorit beinisch 311 Ariel Jerozolimski (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
dorit beinisch 311 Ariel Jerozolimski
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The High Court of Justice on Wednesday ordered the state to report within 60 days on plans for fair representation of women and Arab Israelis on the Israel Land Council.
Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, who presided over the hearing together with Justices Eliezer Rivlin and Miriam Naor, said that Arabs and women are underrepresented in senior government posts.
The hearing was in response to a petition filed by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Itach Women Lawyers for Social Justice, which complains that Arab Israelis and women are inadequately represented on the the ILC, the body that sets policy for the Israel Lands Authority.
As such, the ILC is in violation of legal directives on equality, including a High Court ruling that Arabs must be represented on the council, the petitioners argue.
This is the second petition that ACRI has filed with the High Court regarding Arab representation on the ILC.
As a result of the first petition, over 10 years ago, two Arab members were appointed to the council. However, following a 2009 reform of the ILC, the law was amended such that in addition to 10 representatives from JNF – who are all Jewish – the remaining 12 council members would be appointed from government offices.
Attorney Rawia Aburabia of ACRI’s Arab Minority Rights Department argues that the problem partly stems from the fact that ministers have adopted a policy of appointing the director-general of each ministry to the ILC.
The government’s policy excludes Arab Israelis who do not reach senior positions in government ministries, Aburabia said. Only 6 percent of civil servants are Arab Israelis, although they constitute a fifth of Israel’s population. According to a 2010 parliamentary committee report, only 2.55 percent of ILA employees are Arab Israelis.
However, attorney Sharon Rothschenker, for the state, said the state believes appointing ministry director-generals to the ILC is legitimate and consistent with the law.
The state also noted that a woman had recently been appointed as director-general of the Environmental Protection Ministry and therefore now serves on the ILC.
However, Aburabia responded that this is hardly adequate.
“One woman [council member] is far from the principle of fair representation,” she said.
Justice Miriam Naor pointed out that the government’s decision to appoint ministry director- generals to the ILC is not actually prescribed by law.
“[The state] should also consider the extent to which that decision takes into account the issue of fair representation,” Naor said.
The justices also said that the principle of fair representation should extend to the civil service in general, and not just to the ILC.
“The [High Court] ruling says that the principle of fair representation must also be expressed in the appointment of [ministry] director-generals,” noted Beinisch.