Time to Equalize the Legal Status of All Israelis

Residents of Judea and Samaria are barred from democratic privileges in a current issue.

Nachi Eyal, Legal Forum

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נחי אייל, מנכ"ל הפורום המשפטי
חזקי עזרא

Once again we are witnessing an example of discrimination between residents of the State of Israel and residents of Judea and Samaria: it occurred as part of the selection process for the new Chief Rabbis of Israel. One public was constitutionally and morally excluded from the selection process in an unacceptable manner - the residents of Judea and Samaria. Apparently not every Jewish Israeli citizen is entitled to partake in the selection process; at least not through his representatives in the electoral body.

The Chief Rabbinate Act (1980) defines who is eligible to become a member of the electoral body (mayors of large cities, rabbis of large cities, mayors of large regional councils, etc.). However the residents of Judea and Samaria, who could be represented according to the law, cannot be a partner in the selection process because the law states that the regional and local councils in Judea and Samaria are not listed among the groups that are entitled to send representatives to select the Chief Rabbi because Judea and Samaria are under military rule.

The absurdity is that the Binyamin Regional Council is the largest in the country, with more than 40,000 residents (many more than the next largest council) and it is not included in the electoral list because of geography.

In 2009 MK Uri Orbach proposed a corrective bill which states that representatives of the "area" - as Judea and Samaria are known -- should be included. However this bill was never advanced. Nonetheless, one can reasonably ask why there has been no pressure to correct the bill, and furthermore why the Department of Counseling and Legislation in the Ministry of Justice did not voluntarily act to correct the injustice.

The real story is much broader and involves the lack of implementation following the Levy Commission's Report. The present Netanyahu administration reached a decision to adopt the Levy Report, however in reality nothing was done, which leads to the issues with the upcoming elections of the Chief Rabbinate.

 When there is no clear statement that this is our country - the legal homeland of the Jews/Zionists - which includes Judea and Samaria, that we came to build, the absurdity grows.

After all these years, it is impossible to comprehend that there are still constitutional challenges to equalizing the legal status of Israeli resident, regardless of their location. The Supreme Court realized this absurdity during the disengagement and at the time they clearly stated that the residents of Judea and Samaria hold basic rights which must be upheld.

Everything begins and ends with the decision to apply Israeli law to Judea and Samaria. The legal sovereign in Judea and Samaria is still the IDF (military government).

This situation creates additional challenges for the Israeli legal system, challenges that are not addressed. For example, every building permit requires the approval of the Defense Minister; legislation is an unfinished puzzle; the State of Israel applies personal laws that every citizen must abide by such as taxes, yet all the institutional legislation regarding bodies operating in Judea and Samaria, regional and local councils, organizations, real estate laws are according to the Jordanian law or by order of the Army.

That means that every small step to normalize the lives of the residents of Judea and Samaria requires legislation. The government must immediately pass a law that will place every Israeli citizen in their proper place and not be excluded. 

The right to equality is a fundamental right in a democratic state which must be protected, and ensure the relevant authoritative bodies recognize that some laws and distorted ways of thinking must be changed in order to protect these rights.