Supreme Court Rejects Adalah's Request for a Second Hearing on Decision Finding that the Granting of Enormous State Loans for Home Mortgages to Former Soldiers Does not Discriminate against Arab Citizens


Adalah: “With this ruling, the Supreme Court has authorized the use of the most flagrant criterion for discriminating against Arab citizens. The authorities are liable to use this ruling as a cover for exacerbating the discrimination against the Arab population. The Supreme Court has again capitulated to the Jewish Israeli consensus, despite the fact that basic principles of justice, as well as its previous rulings, should have produced an opposite result that does not clearly discriminate the basis of nationality.”


On 14 October 2007, the Supreme Court rejected a motion filed by Adalah in February 2007 to hold a second hearing on a ruling handed down by the court on 13 December 2006. In the 2006 ruling, the court stated that mortgage benefits – beyond those stipulated in the Absorption of Former Soldiers Law (1994) – offered to former soldiers and/or those who perform national service (Sherut Leumi) do not constitute discrimination against Arab citizens of the state. In rejecting Adalah's motion, the court concurred with the petitioners' claim that its 2006 ruling established a discriminatory precedent: that military or national service can serve as criterion for receiving economic benefits from the state regarding laws aimed at promoting social welfare. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court determined that the 2006 ruling does not justify convening another hearing on the petition.


According to this criterion, a married couple in a poor socio-economic situation, each of whom completed full military service, gets NIS 125,000 (approximately US $30,000) more towards their home mortgage than a similarly-situated married couple neither of whom served in the military or completed national service. In the petition, which was submitted in December 2005, Adalah Attorney Marwan Dalal argued that this substantial assistance is awarded in addition to the generous and broad assistance provided under the Absorption of Former Soldiers Law. (See H.C. 11956/05, Suhad Bishara, et al. v. The Ministry of Construction and Housing.) This law enumerates the benefits to be awarded to those who undertake military and national service, for a period of five years after the completion of their service. Adalah emphasized that the Arab minority in Israel has not been asked to perform military service and cannot do so on the grounds of its social status and historical circumstances. Therefore, the petition argued, any grant or supplement beyond and in addition to what is stipulated in this law results in discrimination against Arab citizens of the state. Furthermore, the granting of these enormous benefits solely to former soldiers disregards the socio-economic crisis and severe housing shortage faced by Arab citizens in Israel.


In the motion for a second hearing, Adalah emphasized that there is a grave error of law in the Supreme Court's 2006 decision, in that the Court considered that the disputed financial support was granted to the former soldiers by a specific law. However, in fact, this support is not specified in any law but was granted based on a governmental policy and governmental directives, specifically the internal directives of the Ministry of Construction and Housing.


Moreover, the Supreme Court's 2006 decision contradicts many of its own previous rulings, Adalah contended. Firstly, the court disregarded its prior rulings in which it held that illegal discrimination can exist when the government intends to discriminate or when discrimination is the result of a governmental policy. Secondly, the court disregarded its landmark decision delivered on a petition filed by Adalah against the exclusion of Arab towns from the list of ‘National Priority Areas'. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled on 27 February 2006 that the government is not permitted to grant significant benefits affecting a large or specific group of citizens based on its own decisions and policies but rather Knesset legislation is required. (See H.C. 2773/98 and H.C. 11163/03, The High Follow-up Committee for the Arab Citizens in Israel, et al. v. the Prime Minister of Israel). Adalah emphasized that this case involves a planned and long-term governmental policy that also has implications for ethnically-based housing patterns, and therefore these government benefits must derive from Knesset legislation, not from considerations of the executive branch.


H.C. 1241/07, Suhad Bishara, et al. v. The Minister of Construction and Housing (motion rejected 14 October 2007)