Pushing Annexation Through Legislation
- Date: 2018-07-27
Since its occupation of Palestine in 1967, Israel has created and maintained policies through its military regime that assert its full control of Palestinian lands and population, throughout the occupied Palestinian Territory including occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, in a manner contradictory to its obligations as occupying power under International Law.
Over fifty years since its illegal occupation and annexation of East Jerusalem, Israel continues to alter the character, status, and demographic composition of the city to impose an overwhelming Israeli-Jewish majority through the systematic discrimination of Palestinians, using a web of policies and laws to achieve its “silent transfer” goals.
Upon signing the Interim Agreements (Oslo) between Israel and the PLO in 1993, Israel has taken advantage of its exclusive civil and security control over areas C, which compose nearly 62% of the West Bank, to impose demographic alterations through the illegal settlement enterprise and arbitrary planning and zoning policies, with the objective of voiding these areas from its Palestinian population to save them for settlement expansion, reflecting eventual illegal annexation tendencies.
The declaration of President Trump of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital, and his decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem in December 2016 encouraged the Israeli government to take bolder steps to fulfill its annexation objectives, in the political and legislative spheres, as well as on the ground.
One of the recent, most alarming trends Israel has taken in fast-tracking its annexation objectives of the oPt is extending its legislating to the oPt through its Knesset and using the legislative venue to legalize what cannot be legal under international law, i.e. annexation. Most recent examples include two laws that passed this month: the law on amending the jurisdiction of Israel’s Administrative Affairs Court, and the Jewish Nation-State law.
- Law on Amending the Administrative Affairs Courts Law (5760-2000)
On July 17th, 2018, with a 56-48 vote, the Israeli Knesset passed a law proposed by the right-wing Minister of Justice, Ayalet Shaked, which effectively expands the jurisdiction of the Israeli Administrative Affairs Court to include the exclusive adjudication of petitions presented by Palestinians against Israeli authorities in the occupied West Bank in several issues, mainly including Planning and construction in areas C. According to Israel’s justice Minister, the declared initial presentation of the law came as a result of technical legal considerations, citing the aim to reduce burdens on the High Court of Justice (HCJ) to increase the efficiency of the judicial system. Another objective of this law is to “end the discrimination” between Israeli citizens, based on where they live, i.e. Israeli citizen, and Israeli settlers residing illegally in the oPt, will refer to the same judicial body.
However, despite Israel’s attempts to mask the law with legal reasoning, by extending its application to areas C of the West Bank, it essentially forms a type of judicial annexation. The adoption of the law raises a number of serious issues pertaining to the status of the oPt under international law from the one hand, and on Palestinians’ access to justice on the other.
The law would drop the status granted to areas C of the West Bank as occupied territory with a special international legal system and obligations for Israel to abide by in its capacity as occupying power. The application of this law effectively normalizes areas C of the West Bank as part of Israel where its courts do have direct jurisdiction and normalizes the illegal presence of Israelis in the West Bank. If Israel starts applying the Israeli law in settlements, it would be effectively annexing the territory and eliminating the “Green Line”.
According to the proposed amendment, the cases under the Administrative affairs Court in Jerusalem would become more complicated and prolonged, and while appealing to the HCJ would still be available, yet it would be much more limited and expensive. In other words, the already atrocious policy of house demolition targeting Palestinians is expected to become worse with the application of this law. The law also gravely impacts Palestinian access to justice in terms of highly increasing litigation fees to the extent that it will constitute an actual barrier for Palestinians to seek judicial venues.
The Administrative Affairs Court is known for its conservative approach, and for the application of Israeli law “proper”, which excludes any possibility of accepting arguments pertaining to international law within the process of litigation. It is particularly alarming and abusive to place the protected population which is controlled by military rule under the court below the highest hierarchy, as it undermines the required level of protection of rights.
- Jewish Nation-State Law
The Jewish Nation State law was adopted on July 19th, 2018 with a 62 in favor to 55 against and two abstentions, enshrining the country’s Jewish national and religious character into law. The Jewish Nation-State law is considered a Basic Law, which means it would have a quasi-constitutional status.
Although the passed law is recent, Israel’s discrimination against its Palestinians citizens is hardly a novelty. In fact, it can be traced back to the Nakba, and, to this day there are over 65 Israeli laws that discriminate directly or indirectly against Palestinian citizens in Israel and/or Palestinian residents of the oPt on the basis of their national belonging. Given the Israeli annexation objectives, the major concern would be that the Palestinians would demand equal rights, therefore, as a strategic move Israel passing the nation state law would ensure that the rights of Jews must always supersede those of non-Jews.
While the Jewish nation has always been the highlight of the state of Israel, this law codifies, and makes it a constitutional mandate to cement the past discriminatory practices, by declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel, declaring the right to self-determination exclusive to its Jewish population, and allowing the creation of exclusive communities, where it can be discriminated against others based on their religion or nationality.
The law takes it further by giving the Arabic language a “special status” rather than having it as an official language and gives the Hebrew language the title of the official language. This law also allows judges to rule based on the Jewish laws, in cases where there is no precedent.
The application of the law extends to areas known as the “Green Line”, where nearly twenty percent of the population are Palestinian citizens of Israel, as well as to territories occupied in 1967 such as Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, which were illegally annexed to the territory of the State of Israel by law.
The Society of St. Yves- Catholic Center for Human Rights raises its gravest concerns and warns against the devastating ramifications associated with those legislative actions, as they do not only reflect Israel’s total contempt of its duties and obligation as an occupying power under International Law, but also, and more importantly, such legislative action impose dramatic deteriorations on the already grim situation of fundamental human right of the Palestinians in general, whether in the oPt including East Jerusalem or inside Israel, Muslims and Christians alike, and on all levels; civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
 The law includes some exceptions of master plans and decisions taken by planning and construction authorities in quasi-legislative capacity. These will remain within the jurisdiction of the High Court
 "Discriminatory Laws in Israel," Adalah, accessed July 25, 2018, https://www.adalah.org/en/law/index.
 David Sheen, "Israel's 'Jewish Nation-state' Law a Prelude to Annexation," Middle East Eye, July 23, 2018, , accessed July 25, 2018, http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/israel-s-jewish-nation-state-law-prelude-annexation-566623067.