The Knesset’s Law, Constitution and Justice Committee debated a bill Monday that would make it impossible for people from an enemy population to sue Israel and to receive compensation for damage sustained in IDF wartime operations or counter-terror operations.
In its ruling on a petition filed by Arab rights group Adalah in December 2006, the Supreme Court under then-Chief Justice Aharon Barak struck down a law which determined that Israel would not be held accountable for damages caused to civilians in conflict zones such as Yehudah and Shomron (Judea and Samaria). The decision was interpreted by some legal experts as a challenge to the Knesset’s sovereignty and led nationalists to demand that the Knesset re-legislate the law that was struck down, but this time with an absolute majority that would make it more difficult for the court to intervene again.
The bill formulated by the Ministry of Justice has already passed in the first reading and was brought before the Knesset’s House Committee Monday for preparation for the second and third readings. Committee chairman MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu) said that Israel’s unique situation – one in which it is constantly at war – makes the discussion of the law on reparations an urgent one.
Representatives from the Justice Ministry, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Internal Security and the Prosecution took part in the discussion, as did MK Ophir Pines-Paz (Labor) and Michael Ben-Ari (National Union). The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which receives funding from the same sources as Adalah, was also present at the discussion.
MK Rotem said that he conducted comparative research into the legal situation in other countries and found that no other country except Israel allows damage suits for war damages. The committee decided to make several amendments in the proposed phrasing of the law and to bring it to another discussion before taking it to the plenum for a vote.
“The current situation, in which the State of Israel pays hundreds of millions of shekels to people who are injured in military operations must change. It is unthinkable that we will be more saintly than the rest of the world and that we will be the only ones who let terrorists sue us in our own courts for damages from war operations or counter-terror operations. The courts in the US would not allow a lawsuit against their government for its actions in the Afghanistan war.”
by gil ronen