Israeli labor laws will apply to workers in Palestinian territories, the High Court of Justice ruled on Wednesday, accepting the petition of West Bank Palestinians against their Israeli employers.
The plaintiffs complained of discrimination in their working conditions, in comparison to their Jewish colleagues. The petition was initially filed in a number of regional labor courts. The case brought up the question of which law applies to the territories.
The regional courts ruled that Israeli law should apply, but the National Labor Court ruled otherwise, arguing that without "strong linkage" binding the employment contract to another law, the contract will be bound by local law, in this case, of the Palestinian territories.
The petitioners argued to the High Court that the National Labor Court's ruling contradicted the principles that compel Israeli labor law to be applied to the workers, and the principles of justice. The Histadrut workers federation joined the petitioners on this matter.
Attorney General Menachem Mazuz said there was no room to interfere with the National Labor Court's decision.
"What hasn't been done by the Israeli legislator or the military commander in the area should not be done using the rules of the international court, (or by going) through a kind of 'back door' to apply the specific Israeli law on the Israeli communities in the West Bank," Mazuz said.
'Decision violates Palestinian workers' basic rights'
An extended panel of nine Supreme Court judges felt otherwise, and accepted the petitioners' plea.
Deputy Supreme Court President Eliezer Rivlin wrote in the verdict:
"It is true that the question before us has wide-scale repercussions on all the workers employed in Israeli communities in the controlled territories, and its solution will influence the nature of the relationship between Israeli employers in the territories and Israeli workers and Palestinian workers as one."
However, Rivlin argued, "I believe that applying foreign law on the Palestinian workers as opposed to applying Israeli law on the Israeli workers violates the Palestinian workers' basic rights and subjects them to discrimination.
"Applying foreign law violates the Palestinian workers' basic rights and this is against the labor court," he wrote. "The National Labor Court actually took from the Palestinian workers the cover of defense that the Israeli legislator saw fit to grant to the Israeli workers. I believe this is unacceptable discrimination."