Judea and Samaria residents: You can't tax our shopping bags

Yesha residents say controversial tax on shopping bags was never applied to towns beyond Green Line, cannot be enforced on them.

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David Rosenberg,

Hadas Parush/Flash90

A new law limiting shoppers’ rights to use plastic shopping bags may not apply to some Israeli communities – at least not yet.

The so-called “Bag Law”, which went into effect on January 1st, bans the free distribution of plastic shopping bags in most supermarkets in Israel. Since the law took effect, shoppers have been required to pay a 10 agurot (2.6 cent) tax per bag, with the proceeds being transferred to environmentalist organizations.

The controversial law has already drawn criticism for its infringement of citizens’ rights and the impact it could have on larger, lower income families, particularly if the tax is increased.

But the law may not be enforceable in some Israeli communities.

According to the Legal Forum for Israel, the new law has yet to be applied to Judea and Samaria, leaving Israeli towns over the Green Line exempt from the tax.

Judea and Samaria, which are administered by Israel, were never annexed to the state. Therefore, Israeli law does not apply directly to the area, but is maintained through the Israeli military, which is charged with law enforcement over the Green Line.

Ordinarily, once a bill is passed into law, a directive ordering the law’s application in Judea and Samaria is issued in the military to the Civil Administration, which extends the law over the Green Line.

But, says the Forum, no such measure was taken in this case.

“Since the commanding officer [for Judea and Samaria] never ordered the [application] of this law, and since it is not part of either the Ottoman or Jordanian legal systems [retained by military administrators in Judea and Samaria], this law is not in force in these territories, therefore [supermarket] branches in Judea and Samaria not obligated by this tax,” the Forum wrote in a letter sent to supermarkets across Judea and Samaria.

And it appears that this opinion is shared by the very ministry responsible for the tax – the Ministry for Environmental Protection.

“The Bag Law was never put through the [process] of applying it to Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria, and the [IDF] commander [in Judea and Samaria] never signed an order for its application there,” the Ministry acknowledged.

“As such the requirements of the law do not apply on retailers in this area. This issue will be deal with according to the [list] of priorities of the ministry in conjunction with the Civil Administration.”