Knesset Approves Expansion of Admission Committees Law Further Entrenching Racial Segregation

On 25 July 2023, by a 42-11 majority vote, the Israeli Knesset approved a new, racist law, which amends the Cooperative Societies Ordinance (Amendment No. 12), 2023. This new law essentially removes restrictions on the number of households in Israeli Jewish "community towns” that are allowed to have “admissions committees”. These committees, which to date exist in the Galilee and in the Naqab (Negev), have the power to approve or to deny applicants who wish to reside there, based on their perceived “social suitability” to the “social and cultural fabric” of a community. In practice, this power has led to the exclusion of Palestinian citizens of Israel from these communities, which are built on state-controlled land.


In 2011, Adalah petitioned against the law, yet the Israeli Supreme Court rejected the case in 2014 in a 5-4 split decision, emphasizing that the issue was premature for constitutional review at that time (See HCJ 2504/11, Adalah, et al v. The Knesset, et al. (decision delivered 17 September 2014) Four justices on the panel were of the opinion that the law was wholly or partially unconstitutional due to its disproportionate infringement of the rights to equality, dignity, and privacy.


For more information, see the "Admissions Committees Law" on Adalah's discriminatory laws database


To date, the law allowed small Israeli Jewish communities of up to 400 households to operate admissions committees to select applicants for housing units and plots of land. The new law introduces a new category called a "Continued Communal Town," which allows towns with 400-700 households to continue operating an admissions committee, subject to the approval of a special committee. Furthermore, in five years, the Minister of Economy and Industry will be authorized to permit admissions committees in towns with more than 700. This provision, de facto, cancels the restriction on the number of households specified in the law.


The new law's geographical scope will also extend beyond the Naqab and Galilee to include all towns designated as National Priority Areas (NPAs) for the purpose of housing benefits, classified in clusters 1-5 in the Peripherality Index. While the proposed law initially included a provision to expand its geographical scope to include Israeli Jewish settlements in the Occupied West Bank, these areas were not included in the final version of the law that passed. However, it is expected that this law will be implemented in settlements in the West Bank via military orders, rather than through Israeli domestic law.

The 2011 “Admissions Committees Law” (Cooperative Societies Ordinance - Amendment No. 8) permits “admissions committees”, as statutory bodies, to screen applicants for housing units and plots of land in hundreds of Jewish Israeli “community towns” built on state land in the Galilee and Naqab regions of Israel, with almost complete discretion. The law allows admissions committees to accept or reject applicants wishing to reside in communities of up to 400 households on the basis of arbitrary and racist criteria related to their perceived “social suitability” to the “social and cultural fabric” of a community.

Adalah notes that the bill's initiators and supporters made their declared racist purpose unmistakably clear during Knesset discussions and in the coalition agreements. Knesset members even invited a representative from the Shin Bet ("Shabak") to participate in the discussions, and he emphasized the security significance of expanded Israeli Jewish settlement in the Galilee.


Adalah commented that:

"No one is trying to conceal the racist purpose of the law, which aims to continue and promote the values anchored in the Jewish Nation State Law, to establish and expand Jewish settlements. At every stage of the legislative process, including by presenting opinions of Shin Bet personnel, Knesset members emphasized their intention to promote the same nationalist values. By using the term "communal," they mean racial segregation and an apartheid policy against Palestinian citizens in Israel. Therefore, Adalah will file a petition to the Supreme Court against this law."