MK Orit Struk
MK Orit StrukIsrael news photo: Flash 90

The Justice Ministry and the courts system will open up a labor court to serve residents of Judea and Samaria, according to documents unveiled this week. The court will be located in Judea and Samaria, possibly in Beit El or Ariel, where various government and Civil Authority offices and agencies are headquartered. However, the courts will be a part of the national Israeli court system, not the IDF-run Civil Authority which usually exercises jurisdiction over Judea and Samaria.

The establishment of the court came about after a proposal by MK Orit Struk last year to require that Israeli labor laws affecting women – such as laws against discrimination and those requiring maternity leave – be enforced by the courts in Judea and Samaria.

In general, Israelis living in communities in Judea and Samaria are legally bound as Israeli citizens to Israeli law, and local authorities and municipalities in the region are considered “sovereign” Israeli areas for enforcement of legal proceedings. But the overall authority – legal and otherwise – in Judea and Samaria is the responsibility of the IDF.

Under Israeli law, Area C – under full Israeli legal and security control, and the area where all Jews live – is considered an “administered” territory.

Activists and MKs on the right have long decried this system; since Israeli citizens are obligated to fulfill all requirements of Israeli law, including paying taxes and serving in the IDF, they should also be provided the rights and protections afforded to all Israeli citizens, as developed by the legal bodies within Israel, including the Knesset and the High Court.

Last September, Struk proposed a law that would extend employment rights for women to Judea and Samaria. “It was shocking to hear that the law did not apply in Judea and Samaria,” she said.

“Personally, I worked there for years, and I think I would have felt much less secure if I had known that the law did not protect me because I was working in Judea and Samaria.”

Struk sought to get the Knesset Ministerial Committee to consider a bill on the matter, but that attempt was quashed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who was sensitive to charges on the left that passing such a law would be part of a “creeping annexation” pf Judea and Samaria by Israel.

However, he did endorse the idea of equal rights for female workers in Judea and Samaria, and as a compromise, the Justice Ministry authorized the establishment of the court. The decision comes after an attempt by the Civil Authority to resolve the issue by proclaiming an order that would require all laws in Israel to apply to women workers in Judea and Samaria. However, Struk, along with activists, said that this was not enough, and that only full protect by the Israeli court system would be acceptable.