The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on Sunday approved for a second and third reading at the plenum the proposed amendment to the Administrative Courts Law empowering the Administrative Affairs Court to hear appeals of administrative decisions of Israeli authorities operating in Judea and Samaria. The decision, passed by an 8 to 7 vote, follows a merging of a government bill with a bill submitted by MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) and others. The committee chair rejected 447 requests for revisions and reservations.
The proposed law is intended to transfer the authority to rule on administrative decisions by Israeli authorities operating in the Judea and Samaria from the Supreme Court convening as the High Court of Justice to the Jerusalem Court for Administrative Affairs.
The issues taken from the High Court of Justice’s jurisdiction and handed to the civil court include freedom of information, planning and construction, entry and exit from Israel, and restriction and supervision orders issued in Judea and Samaria.
During the debates, the committee changed its position on two additional issues, and transferred them, too, to the administrative court:
The original bill included an exception regarding the granting of a building permit for a construction plan that has been submitted but not yet executed. During the committee’s deliberations, the representative of the Justice Ministry noted that the Attorney General values keeping these decisions in the High Court of Justice. But the Committee decided that petitions regarding these decisions would also be transferred to the Administrative Court.
The committee chairman, MK Nissan Slomiansky (Habayit Hayehudi) announced that he had agreed to the attorney general’s request to leave this matter under the authority of the High Court of Justice, but in light of the objection by the opposition members, he withdrew the revision on the matter and these decisions would also be transferred to the administrative court in Jerusalem.
The bill does leave to the High Court of Justice decisions that the IDF commander in the area has made in effect regarding planning and construction. These include direct decisions to demolish structures that are under the direct authority of the IDF commander in the area.
MK Karin Elharrar (Yesh Atid), said during the debate: “This is a law of annexation, and if you have the guts, you should annex all the way. The army representatives told the committee that they do not understand the efficiency introduced by this law. After all, the explanatory notes state that the goal is efficiency, but do you think that the fact that a person will apply to the administrative court will prevent them from later appealing to the Supreme Court?”
The answer is a resounding Yes. While the High Court of Justice does not investigate the legitimacy of claims made by Arab land owners against Jewish settlements, an administrative court will start with a demand for evidence, which, in a majority of these cases, is dubious at best. Also, while the High Court does not consider compromise, especially in cases where the Arab claim is on less than 10% of the overall area of a given structure, an administrative court would rule based on the actual damage and the appropriate remedy.