Results of IDF strike in Jenin
High Court to rule
Photo: Amit Shabi
In its reply to a petition filed by human rights organizations against the amendment to the Damages Law that was enacted about a year ago, the State Prosecutor's Office said Thursday that "The war forced Israel to adjust its Damages Laws, which failed to meet the special criteria of the war, in light of the new situation," the State Prosecutor's Office wrote in its reply.
The law prevents Palestinians from suing for compensation in Israeli courts. So far, 553 damage lawsuits were filed for damages caused to Palestinians since September 2000.
The law, which was approved on July 2005, states that "the State is not responsible for damages caused to any citizen of an enemy state, or one who is a member of a terror organization, and for anyone who was harmed while on a mission of any of them, or on his own accord."
The law, in fact, exempts the government from damage lawsuits by Palestinians who were harmed by Israel Defense Forces activities during the intifiada.
Human rights organizations filed an appeal with the High Court of Justice in order to retract the amendment, citing that it prevents Palestinians from suing for damages. The organizations also claimed that the amendment breaches principles of international law, that the law is inhuman and goes against the basic human respect and freedom law.
The state prosecutor's reply, 96 pages long, was composed by Deputy State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, and Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Attorney Avi Licht, an indication of Israel's treatment of the issue.
The State's reply indicates that Israel treats the Palestinian conflict, since former Prime Minster Ariel Sharon's trip to the Temple Mount on September 2000, as a war in all aspects.
"In September 29, 2000 an armed conflict ensued between Palestinians and Israelis. This conflict is a war in all aspects. The first characteristic
of this war is a war on terror, with no battlefronts. The home front is the battlefront. Responding to such terror attacks required special preparations by Israel. Terror targets mainly civilians. Terrorists have no interest in honoring international humanitarian law, they carry out terror attacks, that knowingly and purposely are war crimes," said the preface to the State's reply.
'If PA were enemy state, amendment would be unnecessary'
The State Prosecutor's Office's reply attempted to explain the complex situation: "Fighting in an authority's territory that is not a state, even if it is a national entity situated in a territory which is partially held by militant means, is a deviation from an acceptable situation."
The attorneys also added in their reply that "If the Palestinian Authority were an enemy state, the amendment was not necessary. But in this situation it is a terror authority hostile to Israel."
The State Prosecutor's Office based its reply on the ruling of Judge Mishael Cheshin, who wrote: "Israel is in the middle of a tough armed conflict with the Palestinians. An authority against a state. Collective against collective. This armed conflict was a war. The Palestinian public chose to be governed by the Hamas terror organization; we knew what is the image and ideology of the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority. The required realization is: The Palestinian Authority is an entity that is hostile to Israel. As such, residents of Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip are considered an enemy."
According to the lawyers, the unique characteristic of the war required different political and military angles, different than what Israel was used to in previous wars.
"The appeals indicate a certain aspect of the war,' they said, explaining that "the IDF's activity harms terrorists but unfortunately also civilians who don't engage in terror."
The reply also said that if the amendment to law was rejected "it could have created an absurd situation in which Israel, the side being attacked, would be responsible for damages of the war, both for its citizens and citizens of the Palestinian Authority."
The reply also referred to the financial cost of compensation: "This war badly damaged the Israeli economy in fields of tourism, commerce, and industry, and the states carries this burden alone. In 2005, for instance, the National Insurance Institute of Israel paid NIS 350 million (about USD 80 million) to Israelis who were injured by hostile terror attacks."
Referring to Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, the reply stated: "As we said, if the amendment to the law affected any constitutional right of an enemy, or those who were harmed in a conflict zone, the harm caused is in compliance of the basic laws."
The High Court is expected to discuss the issue next Thursday.