A new bill that would require Palestinians to file land ownership and demolition cases in Israeli district courts, rather than jumping straight to the High Court, passed its first reading in the Knesset on Monday night.

The legislation would require Palestinians who want to bring Judea and Samaria land-ownership cases to first file in lower courts. At present, left-wing and Palestinian plaintiffs who claim that Jews stole their land can bypass the lower courts and be heard directly by the Supreme Court. In those cases, the burden is upon the defendant to prove that they own the land.

Advocates of the legislation hope that the new law will force plaintiffs to seek justice in the same courts that judge land disputes within sovereign Israel. The office of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said the move to lower courts would place the onus of proof on the plaintiff Palestinians, rather than on the Jewish residents.

Her office also noted that the numerous Palestinian cases brought to halt demolition orders against illegal Palestinian construction would be better handled by district courts.

Lower courts would also handle cases on permission to enter and leave Israel, restraining orders barring individuals from regions of Judea and Samaria, and freedom of information petitions.

Opponents of the bill say the legislation will expand the district courts’ jurisdiction to land which is not currently part of sovereign Israel and therefore creep towards annexation.

“The Knesset today took a big step toward the normalization of life in Judea and Samaria,” said Shaked.

She added that the burden on the high court would be greatly reduced because today, it “handles more than 2,000 petitions each year and should reject many of them outright.”


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