A new proposal by Likud MKs Danny Danon and Yariv Levin promises to put an end to the uniquely Israeli phenomenon of “do-gooder” groups taking it upon themselves to represent in petitions before the High Court individuals or groups that they judge to have been harmed.
The phenomenon is most prevalent when leftist groups representing Arabs seeking to dislodge Jews from property and homes by claiming ownership; the Arabs are generally not a party to the petition, but the court, when asked to, often takes these cases on.
More often than not, it rules in favor of the Arabs – without their having even signed an agreement to allow the groups to represent them.
According to the new law, groups would be allowed to file petitions on the part of complainants only if the latter attach their names to the petition.
In addition, the law will require that only Israeli groups be allowed to file petitions – as opposed to the current situation, where groups from the PA and abroad file petitions on all manner of issues on behalf of individuals whom the groups claim have had their rights violated. This also, is often done without permission or even the knowledge of the people whose rights they claim to be fighting for.
In addition, the group filing the petition will be required to release the sources of its income and who its main donors over the last three years were.
“The left uses the High Court to advance its political agenda, and this brings dishonor on the court,” Danon said. Groups like Peace Now, he said, file High Court petitions at the drop of a hat and damage the image and effectiveness of the Court.
Danon and Levin will present the bill before the Knesset Constitutional Committee next week for initial approval. After that it will be submitted to the Ministerial Law Committee to ensure the government's support, and afterwards be brought up for a Knesset vote.
Leftist groups said Wednesday that the bill would be “the death of the High Court.”
However, the concept of locus standi - or standing - is a central tenet of Canadian and US common law intended to protect the rule of law from frivolous constitutional challenges by those with no immediate interest in a given case. In other words, the party suing must have something to lose in order to sue unless it already has automatic standing by action of law.
In an interview, attorney Michael Sfard, one of the main lawyers representing Peace Now and Yesh Din in Arab ownership petitions, said that the law would “sap from the High Court its ability to deal with important social and national issues. Take this away from the Court, and all we are left with is a group that will deal with procedural issues”.