The Israeli government will support a bill barring Palestinians from petitioning the High Court of Justice, a Knesset committee announced yesterday according to Haaretz.
A new bill, put forward by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of the pro-settlement Jewish Home party, would see the cases of West Bank residents redirected to the Jerusalem District Court. Such cases would include building and planning permits, entry and exit requests, and would also serve as the appeals court for those sentenced by Israeli military courts.
The move has been justified as an attempt to reduce the High Court’s case load; however High Court justices are known to be critical of Israel’s settlement policies, and have often expressed their disapproval of the government delaying the evacuation of illegal outposts in the occupied territories, in an attempt to legalise them.
Last month, Shaked advocated for the move stating that the Jerusalem District Court would assess the facts of cases brought by Palestinians, rather than “making do only with the offhanded claims of ownership [by Palestinians] that are not backed up by evidence.”
“No less important is putting an end to the current discrimination against residents of Judea and Samaria [the West Bank]. Their rights need to be equal to those of any other citizen,” he added, using the occupation’s name for the region.
Last week, Haya Sandberg, a close associate of Shaked, was chosen to serve on the Jerusalem District Court. Known for her strong pro-settlement views, Sandberg would most likely be one of the judges to hear petitions from West Bank Palestinians in her new position.
Reacting to the Knesset decision Arab MK Yousef Jabareen called the bill “another proposal from the workshop of a pro-settler, right-wing government that is seeking to normalize the occupation and is promoting creeping annexation of West Bank territory and of the court system in the area.”
Israel regularly passes legislation that will ease the process of settlement building in the occupied territories. This has included authorising separate municipal authorities for settlers in Palestinians cities in order to provide them access to services.
Israel has also legalised numerous outposts following Palestinian resistance attacks as a form of collective punishment; after the settlement of Havat Gilad was authorised earlier this month, settlers further urged for some 24 outposts to be approved.