The Ministerial Committee on Legislation on Sunday approved an initiative of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi), to transfer the powers over Judea and Samaria from the High Court of Justice to Administrative Affairs Courts, to be established in Israel’s Magistrate’s Courts.
Over the years, High Court of Justice judges have repeatedly rejected the state’s requests to postpone the evacuation and demolition of Israeli outposts, in order to be able to carry out infrastructure and other works needed to sanction them as legal settlements. Shaked’s view is that “the Administrative Affairs Court is the proper address that allows an examination of the facts rather than accepting for claims of ownership which are made casually and are not backed up by proof.”
The high court, being by definition a court of appeals, does not examine evidence thoroughly in land claims as would a lower court, leading to numerous rulings in favor of Arab claimants who had offered dubious and even forged documentation.
Minister Shaked claims that the new law would achieve three main goals: normalization of the Israeli-held part of Judea and Samaria and the erasure of the Green Line in all legal issues; ending the discrimination against the Israeli residents of Judea and Samaria, who are unable to conduct a factual inquiry in trials that come before the high court; and easing the workload of the Supreme Court.
According to the law memorandum drafted by the justice ministry, the district court will be authorized to hear cases regarding administrative decisions by the Israeli authorities in Judea and Samaria regarding planning and construction, restrictions on entry and exit to and from Judea and Samaria, and freedom of information requests.
In addition, this court will serve as an appeals court for restriction and control orders issued by military courts.
The rulings of the district court on these matters may be appealed to the Supreme Court, but unlike the situation today, the High Court of Justice will not be the first tier for Arabs’ petitions against land being used by Israeli settlers.
In short, the Shaked law would remove judicial review over the disputed territories from the hands of the High Court of Justice, except for its authority to hear petitions against decisions made by the IDF commander in Judea and Samaria, since he is the sovereign there – the way the high court now rules on petitions against ministerial decisions inside Israel.
Shaked told her committee on Sunday that “the burden on the Supreme Court is unparalleled in the world. My opinion is known – a High Court of Justice which handles about 2,000 petitions each year is forced to dismiss many of the petitions out of hand. The move I lead now we will channel additional burden to the lower courts.”
“Equally important is ending the discrimination currently practiced against the residents of Judea and Samaria,” she added. “Their rights should be equal to those of any other citizen.”
Last week, Shaked appointed her trusted jurist, Haya Sandberg, who used to head the committee for the regulation of outposts in Judea and Samaria, to be a judge in the district court which would help ease the high court’s burden.
The next step for the initiative is to go the Knesset for its first reading.