The Knesset approved on Monday, May 28, the first of three readings of a bill proposed by far-right Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (HaBayit HaYehudi ― the Jewish Home), which revokes the Supreme Court’s authority to sit as the High Court of Justice (HCJ) for trials related to land-ownership petitions filed by Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), in effect the West Bank.
Currently, the Supreme Court can be convened as the HCJ to hear initial trial cases (as opposed to appeals) which do not fall under the jurisdiction of any other court. If the proposed bill becomes law, all trial cases involving land-ownership claims by Palestinians will henceforth be handled by the Administrative Affairs District Court in Jerusalem instead of the HCJ.
Following the vote, Minister Shaked said, “Today the Knesset has taken a big step toward normalizing life in Judea and Samaria. The move will also reduce the heavy burden imposed on the Supreme Court… The High Court of Justice, which handles about 2000 [Palestinians petitions from the occupied territories] each year, should reject many of the petitions outright, and in the process I am leading now we will shift this burden to lower courts,” the minister said.
Hadash MK Dov Khenin (Joint List), said: “This is a dangerous and problematic law because it is an integral part of the laws of annexation. The authority of the High Court of Justice is part of the criticism of the military regime in the occupied territories. This bill is, in fact, contrary to the real interests of both sides in reaching peace and a just solution that requires the end of the occupation. It’s a new attempt by the far-right to create a situation in which we think annexation is a normal matter.”
A Justice Ministry official told The Times of Israel website that the legislation comes on the backdrop of High Court decisions to demolish Israeli illegal outposts such as Migron, Amona, and, most recently, Netiv Ha’avot, due to their construction on private Palestinian land. “The expectation is that the Administrative Affairs District Court will be more flexible with such cases in the future,” he explained.