Does Israel operate an apartheid system in the West Bank?

  • The basis of law that applies to both Palestinians and Israeli citizens in the West Bank is the law of belligerent occupation, where control should be temporary and Israeli law does not apply.
  • According to the law of occupation, the local Palestinian population is subject to the laws prior to when Israel took control - Jordanian and Ottoman law, as well as the military decrees of the military commander.
  • Like the Palestinians, the Israelis who live in the West Bank are also subject to military decrees of the military commander and to the local law with respect to some areas of life, eg property rights.
  • However, in contrast to the local Palestinian population, Israeli citizens are entitled to their citizenship rights and are subject to Israeli law on the basis of personal jurisdiction.
  • Israel is criticised for having measures that apply only to Palestinians, such as limitations on freedom of movement. But the law of belligerent occupation allows the occupier to defend itself using measures based on security considerations.
  • The Israeli High Court of Justice hears petitions of Palestinians and Israeli NGOs concerning the measures implemented in the West Bank and scrutinises their legality.
  • International law requires different legal systems, not based on race or ethnicity as in the apartheid system but on citizenship. 20% of Israel’s citizens are Arabs.
  • The idea behind the preservation of the local law that was in place before the Israeli control is to respect the rights of the former sovereign. This is less relevant in the case of the West Bank because Jordan was not the legal sovereign, but was itself an occupier.
  • It is often argued that most Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and Israel has no right to implement security measures to protect the settlers. However, Israel must still protect the settlers and respect their civil rights.
  • Israel’s detractors also argue that occupation should only be temporary, but it is prolonged and has resulted in de facto annexation. However, Israel has made many generous settlement offers to the Palestinians over the years which have all been refused.


Israeli Law Enforcement in West Bank

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