search

Shaked revives bid to extend civil law to settlements

Justice minister will ‘prioritize’ controversial legislation to protect Israelis in the West Bank from ‘discriminatory’ martial rule

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative image of an Israeli soldier guarding near the Kedumim settlement, with the Palestinian village of Kadum in the background, on November 13, 2009. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)
Illustrative image of an Israeli soldier guarding near the Kedumim settlement, with the Palestinian village of Kadum in the background, on November 13, 2009. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked announced her intention to revive controversial legislation that would force the army to extend Israeli civil law to settlements in the West Bank while maintaining martial rule over Palestinians there.

First introduced in 2014, the so-called “Civil Law” bill has been panned by critics who charge it would represent a de facto annexation of the territories beyond the Green Line.

“As justice minister I’m giving this matter priority and will dedicate resources to it so that we will have a genuinely equal legislative process,” Shaked told the right-wing group the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel on Sunday evening.

Under current Israeli law, the West Bank (excluding areas within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem) is not part of Israeli territory to which Israeli civil law applies. The military governor of the West Bank, who also heads the IDF Central Command, is empowered to issue military directives related to civilian life in the area — including labor protection, regulation of commerce and the like.

Shaked, a member of the right-wing Jewish Home party, defended the bill on Monday, arguing the legislation would grant Israelis in the West Bank the protection of civil law and would ease the over-burdened justice system.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked attends the weekly Jewish Home party meeting at the Knesset on March 28, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked attends the weekly Jewish Home party meeting at the Knesset on March 28, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

She told Army Radio that citizens living in the West Bank are being discriminated against under current Israeli law, which places them under military rule, unlike other citizens.

Shaked pointed to the unregulated maternity leave for women employed in West Bank settlements and the lack of environmental laws as evidence of the bill’s necessity.

“What we’re trying to do is to make the process more orderly,” she said. “At the end of the day, hundreds of thousands of people live there, and just like you can’t fire a woman for being pregnant in Israel, that should also apply to women in Judea and Samaria.

“Using this example, this law would apply in the same way to Palestinian women employed by Israeli businesses” beyond the Green Line, she said, noting that civil law would not apply to Palestinians not employed by Israel.

Implementing the bill would not change the status of the areas in question; nor would it change the diplomatic status of the settlements or contradict international law, Shaked maintained.

The justice minister’s initiative enjoys the support of her Jewish Home party’s chairman, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who said Monday that many necessary civil laws have never been implemented in West Bank settlements due to red tape.

“I believe that all of Judea and Samaria should be under Israeli law, just as it is in the Golan Heights, though the whole world would object,” Bennett told Army Radio.

Shaked’s announcement was met with a harsh response from opposition MKs who charged the justice minister’s initiative was inherently discriminatory and would derail any future pace talks with the Palestinians.

“We need to call a spade a spade,” Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon said. “Minister Ayelet Shaked continues to fan the flames and pour oil on the fire that is Israel’s relations with the world.

“This move will sabotage any chance of a political agreement,” added Galon.

Meretz leader MK Zahava Galon, June 2013. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Meretz leader MK Zehava Galon, June 2013 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Tamar Zandberg, also a member of the left-wing Mertez, slammed Shaked’s bill as indicative of Israeli “apartheid” policies in the West Bank.

“The position of the right is clear: annexation with (apparently) different standards of rights for different citizens. If that sounds like apartheid, you are correct,” she charged in a statement.

Zionist Union Member of Knesset Tzipi Livni also took aim at Shaked’s initiative, saying her “Civil Law” bill would decimate prospects for reaching a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“The right-wing government is quietly beginning the process of annexation in order to impose its ideology there,” she said. “The end result of this is the collapse of the idea of having two states, the beginning of two completely different legal systems in one country, enormous damage to Israel’s image internationally and, ultimately, 2.5 million Palestinians with the right to vote and a Knesset majority.”

In 2014, the “Civil Law” bill was criticized by then attorney general Yehuda Weinstein.

In a legal opinion submitted to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, Weinstein said he opposed the proposed legislation on the grounds that it would undermine the authority of the IDF Central Command in administering the territory. He noted that there are other mechanisms in place to implement Israeli civil and criminal statutes in the West Bank.

Israeli settlements in the West Bank are seen as major stumbling blocks toward peace efforts, since they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state. Some 400,000 Israelis live in West Bank settlements in near-constant tension with 2.5 million Palestinians.

read more:
comments
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed