Israeli Supreme Court Approves Continuous Delay in Obligatory Establishment of Employment Bureaus in Bedouin Towns in the Naqab

A petition by Adalah, civil society organizations, and local councils to demand employment bureaus be opened in Naqab Bedouin towns was rejected by the Supreme Court, pending the Ministry’s review of a planned new digital app. Despite extremely high unemployment and poverty rates, job seekers from Bedouin towns must travel to government employment bureaus in far away cities.

Today, 24 August 2023, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected a petition filed by Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel in March 2022, which demanded that the Minister of Economy and Industry establish employment bureaus in Palestinian Bedouin towns in the Naqab (Negev). The petition was filed on behalf of the local councils of four Bedouin villages: Hura, Laqiya, Tel as-Sabi (Tel Sheva), and Ar'ara A-Naqab, along with the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality and the Sidra Association. The Court held that the petition exhausted itself at this stage, considering the fact that the Ministry of Economy is currently examining a new policy for the provision of online employment services, which could potentially impact the geographical distribution of the bureaus in the future.


            CLICK HERE to read the judgment [Hebrew]

            CLICK HERE to read more about the petition


According to official government data, the four villages that petitioned, along with the villages of Shaqib al-Salam and Kuseife – which together have more than 100,000 residents – suffer from the highest unemployment rates in the country. Residents of the Bedouin towns and unrecognized villages around them are required to travel to distant Jewish towns and villages to receive services that are linguistically and culturally inaccessible to the Bedouin population and not tailored to their specific needs. Currently, Rahat is the only Bedouin town in the Naqab that has an employment bureau. The Ministry of Economy has refrained from opening any additional bureaus in Bedouin towns, despite a binding recommendation from the Israeli Employment Service, submitted to the Minister in September 2021, to open five employment bureaus. According to law, this recommendation does not leave room for ministerial discretion.


This Supreme Court judgment follows the Court's consistent acceptance of the Ministry's repeated request for delays in the court proceedings, in an effort to avoid providing a substantive response regarding its intention to uphold its obligation and open the bureaus.


In its initial response submitted to the Supreme Court in June 2022, the Ministry of Economy indicated that the then-Minister, Orna Barbivai, intended to open one bureau. Regarding the other bureaus, it noted that a decision would be reached by the end of June 2022, following ministerial deliberations on the issue.


            CLICK HERE to read the response [Hebrew]


However, following the collapse of the previous government in 2022, the Ministry informed the Court  that the matter would be transferred to the new Minister's attention after the November 2022 elections. Therefore, the Court granted the Ministry an additional three-month extension, after which they were to provide updates on the development of this matter.


After the new Minister, Nir Barkat, was appointed in April 2023, the Ministry of Economy informed the Court that the Minister planned – following an additional internal examination and research – to create a detailed strategy for employment and training, prioritizing effective service delivery through digital systems. According to media reports, the Minister was also considering the launch of a new digital app for employment services.


In response to the new position of the Ministry of Economy, the petitioners clarified to the Court that the Employment Service itself attested in a report from June 2021 that many job seekers in the Bedouin communities in the Naqab have a particularly limited proficiency in digital skills. Therefore, the petitioners stressed that the Ministry's examination would be highly unlikely to result in the conclusion that online services can adequately replace the necessity of establishing physical employment bureaus in the Bedouin towns.


In its latest update, on 23 July, the Ministry stated that the head of the Ministry of Economy intends to examine the digital components of the plan, including the possibility of "us[ing] artificial intelligence" for the provision of employment services.


Although the Ministry of Economy's stance remained unchanged, the Supreme Court, after three updates from the State, dismissed the petition in its entirety. The Supreme Court reasoned that with the advancement of this digital project, “it is inevitable that a change in the nature of the services provided in employment bureaus, in general, will impact the distribution and the locations [of the bureaus] throughout the entire southern region, and consequently, it will also affect the necessity of employment bureaus in towns.”



Adalah Attorney Salam Irsheid commented:


“The Supreme Court has granted the Minister of Economy full permission to continue to evade his legal obligations, in spite of a professional recommendation that has been pending for two years, which obliges the authorized entity – here, the Ministry of Economy – to open employment bureaus in Bedouin towns. The Court's judgment makes evident that the Minister only needs to inform the Court that he is re-examining the overall policy and claiming to make efforts towards it in order to gain the Court's approval for continuing to discriminate against Bedouin citizens. Until such a policy is formulated, if at all, citizens in Jewish towns will continue to receive employment services, while Arabs will have to wait.”


Haia Noach, Director of the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality commented:


“It's odd that despite the head of the Employment Service's recommendation to open five bureaus, the Court relies, in its decision, on the Minister of Economy, Barkat’s planned online program for employment services. As it is well-known that internet accessibility in Bedouin communities is very poor, and large parts of the population lack digital literacy, the program will hardly be relevant for many of the Bedouins that it is meant to serve. It is clear that we will continue to see high unemployment rates, in particular for women, for many years to come.”


Related press releases:

Adalah, CSOs, and local councils petition Israeli Supreme Court demanding opening of employment bureaus in Naqab Bedouin towns 20 March 2022