New bill promises boost for Judea and Samaria residents

If passed, a bill approved by the ministerial committee for legislation will mark a significant breakthrough for residents of Judea and Samaria, who have had the legality of their homes challenged again and again in the High Court of Justice.

By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The ministerial committee for legislation approved on Sunday a bill proposed by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked that would force Palestinian plaintiffs from Judea and Samaria to petition a district court regarding building and land disputes, instead of the High Court of Justice (HCJ). Until now, because Judea and Samaria are under military law, such cases went directly to the HCJ for adjudication.

This is one of the main outcomes of the decision to authorize the Jerusalem District Court to hear petitions against administrative decisions of Israeli authorities in Judea and Samaria.

Passing such legislation will be a significant breakthrough for Jewish residents, who have had the legality of their homes challenged again and again in the HCJ by such left-wing organizations as Peace Now and Yesh Din, which bring a Palestinian Arab to court to claim that the homes were built on his land – with no proof of ownership required.

The HCJ does not conduct factual inquiries, so in cases where the information regarding land ownership was not in the hands of the state, the HCJ would accept the Arab claim as fact and almost always rule that the Jewish homes be destroyed. In other words, as opposed to a normal court of law, here the burden of proof was on the defendant instead of the plaintiff.

Justice minister: All citizens deserve the same rights

Shaked explained that there are three purposes to her proposed law: to “normalize” Judea and Samaria by the de facto erosion of the “Green Line” regarding legal issues; to provide all Israeli citizens with access to civil courts so that a factual investigation can be conducted and the truth laid bare, thereby ending decades of discrimination against the residents of Judea and Samaria; and to ease the terrible backlog of cases at the High Court so that justice can be done more quickly.

“The  450,000 residents of Judea and Samaria are entitled to the same rights and have the same obligations as the rest of the citizens of the State of Israel,” Shaked said.

The High Court hears over 2,000 land-petition cases a year, hundreds of which are actually appeals by Palestinians against demolition orders for illegal construction.

Several other areas of jurisdiction will be moved to the administrative courts if this new bill becomes law.