A harshly worded Supreme Court decision — one of the last handed down by former Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch — cancels tax benefits extended in recent years to five Jewish communities. The Supreme Court decided instead to grant the benefits to three Druze and Arab villages.
In the ruling, Supreme Court President Asher Grunis and Deputy President Eliezer Rivlin criticized the government, expressing dismay over the fact that it is throwing what it termed “hot potatoes” at the High Court instead of tackling matters for which it is responsible.
In the words of the High Court, Beinisch’s ruling addresses years of discrimination. In 2005, the Knesset approved a list of communities bordering Gaza that would be eligible for tax breaks. The Knesset’s Finance Committee decided to add to the list Arad, Hazor, Beit She’an, and the Arava and Eilot regional councils. Jewish communities on the Lebanese border were also included, while nearby Druze and Arab villages were not.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Adalah [The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel] submitted a petition to the High Court along with communities on the Lebanese border demanding to be included in the list of towns eligible for tax benefits.
“In the hearings we have held over the course of several years, we didn’t find one factor that could protect the constitutionality of the law,” Beinisch wrote. “The peak came with the agreement of the attorney general to issue an absolute injunction on the cancelation of amendment 146 of the order.”
The amendment to which she referred called for the removal of the five Jewish communities from the list of towns receiving benefits. However, foot-dragging on the part of the government and Knesset dragged on for years. Justices Beinisch, Grunis and Rivlin were thus prompted to take action and remove the five Jewish communities from the list of benefits and add the three Druze and Arab communities. They also decided to give the Knesset one year to pass a more balanced law.