Ministers back bill forcing army to extend civil law to settlements

Controversial bill wins okay after prime minister allows cabinet committee to vote freely, may soon be presented in Knesset

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, November 9, 2014. (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, November 9, 2014. (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL/Flash90)

A ministerial committee gave the go-ahead Sunday for a bill that would force the IDF’s Central Command to issue military directives for Israelis in the West Bank that match civil laws passed in the Knesset.

The bill got the backing of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would not demand coalition discipline on the bill.

Speaking at a meeting of Likud-party cabinet ministers Sunday, Netanyahu said he would not force MKs or ministers to oppose the bill.

Shortly after his announcement, the bill passed the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, the cabinet committee that decides if the government will support a bill, with six votes in favor and four opposed.

Under current Israeli law, the West Bank is not part of Israeli territory to which Israeli civil law applies — with the exception of East Jerusalem. The military governor of the West Bank, who is also the IDF’s OC Central Command, is empowered to issue military directives related to civilian life in the area, including labor protections, regulation of commerce and the like.

The bill, debated Sunday in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, requires that the army issue a directive matching the stipulations of any new civil legislation passed in the Knesset within 45 days of its passage.

The bill only applies to Israeli citizens, and is meant to grant Israelis in the West Bank the protections of Israeli civil law without requiring an Israeli annexation of Jewish-settled parts of the territory.

The bill is sponsored by MKs Yariv Levin (Likud) and Orit Strock (Jewish Home), who said it “will protect the rights and obligations of all Israelis in Judea and Samaria [the Hebrew term for the West Bank]. There is no justifiable reason why Israeli citizens living in Judea and Samaria are unable to self-determine rights and obligations through the representatives they elected to the Knesset for this purpose, without applying sovereignty to the territory,” they added in a joint statement, according to the Haaretz daily.

The MKs also said Israeli citizens who reside in the West Bank are being discriminated against under current Israeli law, since the military directives in place in the West Bank are behind Israeli civil law on a series of issues.

Strock and Levin said implementing the bill would not change the diplomatic status of the settlements or contradict international law, as it would not change the status of the areas in question.

The bill’s co-sponsors include coalition chairman MK Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), Jewish Home faction chair MK Ayelet Shaked, Shas faction chair Avraham Michaeli, Knesset Law Committee chair MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beytenu) and United Torah Judaism faction chair MK Menachem Eliezer Mozes.

In a legal opinion submitted to the cabinet committee, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein said he opposed the proposed bill on the grounds that it would effectively undermine the authority of the IDF Central Command in administering the territory, and noted that there are other mechanisms in place to implement Israeli civil and criminal statutes in the West Bank.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed
Register for free
and continue reading
Registering also lets you comment on articles and helps us improve your experience. It takes just a few seconds.
Already registered? Enter your email to sign in.
Please use the following structure:
Or Continue with
By registering you agree to the terms and conditions. Once registered, you’ll receive our Daily Edition email for free.
Register to continue
Or Continue with
Log in to continue
Sign in or Register
Or Continue with
check your email
Check your email
We sent an email to you at .
It has a link that will sign you in.