What the failure of the legal jurisdiction bill could mean for Israelis in Judea and Samaria
(June 8, 2022 / JNS) A vote in the Knesset to renew a law, which was due to expire on June 30, that applies the Israeli legal system to citizens of Judea and Samaria, and which has been in effect as “emergency regulations” since the Six-Day War of 1967, ended in defeat on Monday night. Although these regulations were extended without fanfare every five years, this time the government failed to muster the required votes and the bill did not pass, 58 to 52.
The law failed despite the opposition party led by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supporting it in principle. Netanyahu’s Likud party voted against it in order to embarrass its political opponents. The ruling coalition also faced internal problems, with two members, one from the Arab Ra’am party and the other from the leftist Meretz party, voting against the bill. Other Ra’am members, as well as former coalition whip Idit Silman, absented themselves from the vote.
Israeli and international media focused on the political fallout, describing the government’s failure to pass the bill as a blow to the coalition and perhaps the final nail in its coffin. (Justice Minister Gideon Saar, who supports the settlements, said before the vote that if the bill did not pass, the government would not have the right to proceed.) The government will have the opportunity to introduce the bill for another vote, although it is doubtful whether he can muster the necessary votes.
Party politics aside, the question is: what are the ramifications for Israeli citizens in Judea and Samaria if the law were to expire?
During the heated week-long debate leading up to the vote, the media was filled with dire scenarios in which an estimated half a million Israeli citizens in Judea and Samaria would find themselves under Jordanian law, tried by military courts, disenfranchised, unable to be drafted into the Israeli army, and cut off from their health insurance.
A May 31 legal opinion by Deputy Attorney General Avital Sompolinsky, made public by Saar, stoked those fears, warning that the law’s expiration “will make life for Israelis in Judea and Samaria difficult, if not impossible.”
Additionally, as the law provides the legal basis for Israel to detain Palestinian criminals from Judea and Samaria, including suspected terrorists, in Israeli prisons, Sompolinsky warned that more than 3,500 Palestinian security prisoners could no longer be held. detained in Israeli prisons. An alternative solution for them would have to be found, “which is also likely to have serious security consequences and dramatic logistical effects,” she said.
Speaking to JNS, Maurice Hirsch, director of legal strategies for Palestinian Media Watch, an Israeli research institute specializing in Palestinian society, said that because Israel has not applied sovereignty to Judea and Samaria , the two are considered separate legal entities, “almost as much if they were two different states.
“The purpose of the regulations is to put in place a legal framework that synchronizes Israel with Judea and Samaria. They provide an easy path for otherwise potentially complicated issues,” he said.
However, Hirsch, who served for 19 years in the IDF’s military attorney general’s corps and served as director of the military prosecutor’s office in Judea and Samaria, dismissed most of the dire scenarios as “scare tactics.”
Israelis in Judea and Samaria will continue to be able to vote in elections, he said, and the idea that they will be subject to Jordanian law (Jordan occupied the area from 1948 to 1967 and Israel let the Jordanian laws in place) is “simply wrong.”
However, the issue of Palestinian security prisoners is serious, he added.
“The biggest potential danger of the law not being passed is this: how do you hold these Palestinian terrorists in the prisons in Israel? This is something that really needs to be addressed, and addressed very quickly, because there are not enough prisons in Judea and Samaria,” he said.
“Between 3,000 and 3,500 Palestinian terrorists are being held in prisons in Israel at any one time. These include maximum security prisons,” Hirsch said. “There is only one Israeli prison in Judea and Samaria, which is far too small to contain all the terrorists. When the regulations expire at the end of the month, it will be questionable what exactly is the legal basis for holding these prisoners in Israeli jails,” he added.
The long-term solution, according to Hirsch, is to institute Israeli law permanently in the territories, as was suggested under the Trump plan two years ago.
“It would be enough for the moment to apply Israeli law to all of Area C and then move on to see what happens with Areas A and B,” he said. Area A of Judea and Samaria is under Palestinian administrative and security control, in accordance with the terms of the Oslo Accords. Area B is under Palestinian administrative control, but under shared security control. Area C is under Israeli control.
Efraim Inbar, president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, said trying to enforce Israeli law in the territory will be much more difficult than renewing the current law, which he said is a “personal law “in the sense that it applies to Israeli civilians. “It’s not unlike the laws of the Middle Ages, which applied to subjects,” he told JNS.
Inbar agreed that the warnings about the consequences for Israeli citizens in Judea and Samaria if the law is not passed are likely overstated.
“It seems to me that since there is a military governor in the area, he can issue an order, which is not exactly like the law, but I think it can replace the law, at least temporarily,” said he declared.
Inbar said the consequence of the law’s failure will be widely felt by politicians.
“It makes life for the right-wing segments of this coalition much more difficult,” he said.