Justice Minister backs Israeli law for West Bank settlements

A plan to apply Israeli civil law to Jewish settlements in the West Bank is being drafted by Israel’s Justice Minister — a move likely to fuel claims of creeping annexation of the occupied territory.

Ayelet Shaked’s proposal, announced at a right-wing conference this week, goes against the longstanding policy of her ministry and Yehuda Weinstein, the recently retired attorney-general. However, Ms Shaked hopes to draft a bill within weeks and implement the change within a year.

“I’m giving this matter priority and will dedicate resources to it so that we will have a genuinely equal legislative process,” she said.

Ms Shaked said the change would strengthen workers’ rights and give better environmental protection. Her proposal highlights the jumble of laws in the West Bank, which Israel occupied during the 1967 war. It is home to 400,000 settlers and 2.5 million Palestinians, all of them officially subject to military law. Israeli courts and the army have carved out various exceptions for settlers, so they usually face criminal charges in front of civil courts, rather than military judges.

Israeli labour law does not fully apply in the West Bank, so a pregnant woman in a settlement can be fired from her job, which would be illegal in Tel Aviv.

Disputes over land in the West Bank are often adjudicated using a combination of British, Jordanian and Ottoman regulations dating back more than a century.

Read full story by Gregg Carlstromm (The Times) in The Australian