The Knesset plenum on Monday approved a bill amending the Administrative Courts Act (Amendment 117), initiated by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi), transferring the power to hear petitions on decisions made by Israeli authorities operating in Judea and Samaria from the High Court of Justice to the Jerusalem Court of Administrative Affairs. The amendment also seeks to establish Courts of Administrative within Israel’s Magistrate’s Court system.
The effective result of the amendment, should it survive committee debates and the next two plenum votes, would be to force Arab land owners with claims against Israeli entities in Judea and Samaria to provide real proof of ownership as well as all other manner of proof required in a dispute over land, a process which for decades has been ignored completely by the High Court of Justice hearing those often fabricated claims.
The new amendment could also mean that land disputes will no longer result in court rulings mandating the complete demolition of a Jewish settlement, as the civil courts would naturally urge compromise, and market value compensations in cases where claimants have been proven right.
The High Court of Justice has tyrannized the Israeli settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria since the early 1990s, permitting Arab claimants to submit petitions with scant proof that would have never been accepted by lower courts. The high court also permitted those petitioners to appeal directly to the top court, without having gone through the judicial appeal process – and without a right of standing.
The bill proposes to “transfer from the High Court of Justice to the Jerusalem Court of Administrative Affairs the authority to hear petitions on decisions of Israeli authorities operating in Judea and Samaria under the Security Legislation, especially in the areas of freedom of information, planning and construction, entry and exit to and from the area, and restriction and supervision orders.
The bill’s explanatory notes read: “The authorization of the Administrative Affairs Court to hear administrative decisions by Israeli authorities operating in Judea and Samaria will result in these decisions being heard not before the High Court as the initial and final arbiter.”
“In this regard, it should be noted that an analysis of the data regarding the number of petitions submitted to the High Court of Justice each year indicates that there are quite a number of petitions being filed regarding Judea and Samaria, and so, beyond the realization of the purpose underlying the overall process relating to the judicial system in administrative matters, the authorization of the Administrative Affairs Court as proposed in this bill may also help reduce the burden imposed on the Supreme Court,” the notes suggest, using the language that has curbed the zeal of many a high court by a “caring” executive branch.
There is great resistance to the proposed bill, including, possibly, within the Netanyahu coalition. The left has been beating the propaganda drums against the entire idea of taking away the power of the High Court of Justice to control Israeli settlements with its iron fist – never mind the fact that identical claims inside the “green line” are routinely heard in civil courts, where defendants are granted the right to lay out their fact-based cases. The High Court does not have a great capacity for debates over facts, having been set up as the final court of appeals where procedure rather than facts is being debated.
MK Dov Khenin, the only Jewish member of the Joint Arab List, was refreshingly honest about the real purpose of empowering the High Court of Jewish settlers: “This is a dangerous and problematic law because it is an integral part of the laws of annexation,” MK Khenin argued.
“The High Court of Justice’s authority is part of the control over the military rule in the Occupied Territories,” Khenin continued. “The transfer of authority is actually a process of annexation. “This is contrary to the real interests of both sides in reaching a solution of peace and justice that requires the end and end of the occupation.”
In other words, instead of seeking justice in disputes between Arabs and Jews over land ownership, the Left wants the High Court to ensure that the Arab side in those hearings wins, because otherwise there would be too many Jews living and thriving in Judea and Samaria, and frustrating the messianic 2-state solution.
MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Camp) preferred to throw a tantrum, reminding everyone that “this is another law created by Habayit Hayehudi, who in any case want to drive a D-9 bulldozer through the High Court (a reference to an angry comment by an Habayit Hayehudi MK a few years ago, which has been re-used ad nauseam in Leftwing attacks against the party).”
“Then let’s send everything to administrative courts as if it’s all personal disputes,” Livni, a former justice minister, said, suggesting, like her colleague from the Arab Communist party that these are not land disputes, these are instead land disputes between Arabs and Jews, and if the Arab were to lose—for lack of evidence—the entire 2-state solution loses.”
“It’s an attempt to create a reality in which we start thinking that annexation is a normal thing,” MK Livni said, again making the connection between the future of the Palestinian State and the urgent need to make sure settlement Jews lose in court.