Cabinet ministers began deliberations Sunday on how 12 government-sponsored bills might be applied to West Bank settlements.
The discussions in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation came after Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit instituted a new procedure several weeks ago. He ruled that bills proposed by ministries must now include a legal opinion on how the laws might apply beyond the Green Line, to settlements in the occupied territories.
The bill’s preliminary formulation must include an explanation on whether the law could be applied by means of legislation or by an order issued by a district commander in the West Bank, as is currently the case.
Committee members told Haaretz that although the government could have theoretically made decisions on bills on this basis in the past, the preparatory work that must now be undertaken for each of the bills means more solutions can be found to allow laws to be applied to the settlements.
For example, the committee approved a bill presented by the Agriculture Ministry on Sunday to regulate egg quotas in Israel. Until now, such quotas could not be transferred to poultry farmers in the territories. But the ministers decided that the wording of the law should state that Israel proper and West Bank settlements will now be viewed as one market.
According to officials familiar with the process, though, this was an unusual decision. In other agricultural areas – milk, for example – quotas in Israel and beyond the Green Line are still regarded as separate.
In another case, the Public Security Ministry said it was still mulling whether an amendment that imposes a harsher penalty on illegal residents and their accomplices – which was just approved by the Knesset – should also apply to the territories. If it does not apply, the ministry is expected to push for commanders to issue orders that make it applicable in the settlements.
Another bill concerning the protection of citizens’ privacy may now also be accompanied by an opinion by a government legal adviser, including an interpretation that allows for it to also apply to settlers without the need for special legislation or a commander’s order.
The committee chairwoman, Ayelet Shaked, who is also justice minister, said Sunday that “450,000 residents of Judea and Samaria are entitled to the same rights and have the same obligations as the rest of the citizens of the State of Israel.
“I will insist that a government-sponsored bill be discussed by the committee only if it includes references to this subject,” she said, adding, “We have corrected an injustice that has lasted for 50 years.”