Palestinians who sustain damages to person or property as a result of IDF activity in the West Bank may soon find it nigh impossible to file a lawsuit against the State of Israel.
The Knesset on Tuesday passed an amendment of the so-called 'Intifada law' (civil damages act) in its first reading. The government's bill proposal seeks to expand the definition of the term 'military act,' under which the state is exempt from being held accountable for damage incurred in counterterrorism operations. The immunity currently pertains only to limited situations.
According to the law, which was revoked by the High Court of Justice in December 2006 following numerous petitions by human rights organizations, residents of the territories, citizens of "enemy states" and operatives of "terrorists organizations" are ineligible to demand compensation for damages caused by security forces.
While the law permits lawsuits to be filed in Israeli courts – the amendment would see the court's protocol dictate that deliberation over the State's claim that a particular act in question falls under the category of a 'military act' precede any further hearings. This would mean that the court will first have to rule on the validity of the Palestinian claim before accepting the lawsuit.
"The need for this law stems from the changes in the practical and legal arenas since the implementation of the disengagement and the High Court's ruling, which determined that the clause in question was unconstitutional," said Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann.
Friedmann said the law must be expanded to include policing or law enforcement operations.
Civil rights organization Adalah criticized the amendment proposal. "The bill opposes all logic and principles of Israeli and international law. A lack of ability to file claims will result in the impossibility of investigating abuse and property damage cases," the organization said.
MK Wasil Taha (Balad) said Tuesday's vote was "a dark day for the Knesset and democracy. The proposal is aimed against the Arab public's leaders and Arab MKs. It is another de-legitimizing step against the entire Arab public."