"Admissions Committees Law" - Cooperative Societies Ordinance - Amendments No. 8 and 12

Land and Planning Rights

The 2011 “Admissions Committees Law” (Cooperative Societies Ordinance - Amendment No. 8) permits “admissions committees”, as statutory bodies, almost complete discretion to screen applicants seeking to purchase housing units and plots of land in hundreds of Jewish Israeli so-called “community towns” built on state land in Israel. This is on the basis of arbitrary and racist criteria related to their perceived “social suitability” to the “social and cultural fabric” of a community. Given the committees' broad discretion, the use of vague and subjective criteria, and their composition, which includes a representative from the Jewish Agency or World Zionist Organization, the law creates a de facto situation wherein these committees can reject interested residents who are Palestinian citizens of Israel – or as well as members of other marginalized groups – solely on the basis of their race, ethnicity, religion, or other identity. 

In 2023, the Israeli Knesset passed an amendment to the Cooperative Societies Ordinance (Amendment No. 12) which expands the law’s scope. The amendment effectively removed restrictions on the maximum number of households that “community towns” may have and be permitted to operate an admissions committee. Additionally, the amendment extended its geographic scope, permitting not only towns in the Naqab and Galilee - regions with large populations of Palestinian citizens of Israel - but also towns listed on the national priority map to operate admission committees, thus significantly broadening its application.

The law applies to 437 localities, which is more than 41% of all localities in Israel, and allows the operation of admissions committees in all regional councils, covering approximately 80% of the state’s territory. Therefore, this law serves as a key component of Israel’s system of segregation in housing and land-use, allowing the effective implementation of Apartheid between Palestinian and Jewish citizens.

Main Provisions


(A) (1) The allocation of land to a person for the purpose of acquiring the right to land in a community town in which an admissions committee operates will be executed after receiving the approval of the admissions committee.

(B) (1) An admissions committee of a community town will be composed of five members, and they are: two representatives of the community town; a representative of the regional council under whose jurisdiction the community town is located, a representative of the movement with which the community town is affiliated or in which it is a member, and if the community town is not affiliated with a movement as stated or a member in it, or if the movement waives representation – an additional representative of the regional council as mentioned above; a representative of the Jewish Agency for Israel or the World Zionist Organization.

6C. – Considerations of the admissions committee.

(A) An admissions committee is entitled to refuse to accept a candidate for a community town based on one or more of the following considerations only:

4. The candidate is not suitable for the social life in the community; a decision by the admissions committee to refuse to accept a candidate due to this consideration will be based on a professional opinion by someone who is expert in identifying such suitability;

5. The candidate’s lack of suitability with the social-cultural fabric of the community town, when there is reason to assume that it would harm this fabric, and in the case of continued community towns, the applicant’s lack of suitability with the public communal attributes of the community town, when there is a basis to assume that this could substantially impair the communal nature of the town.


(b) The Committee for Community Towns is authorized to approve the classification of a community town as a continued community town in a reasoned written decision after it has examined the various aspects of the town’s functioning as a community town and has been convinced that there is justification for expanding the town beyond 400 households through a process that includes an admission committee, to allow for its continued functioning as a community town…


(a) The Minister of Finance is authorized to determine, through a [written] order, with the approval of the Knesset, and after receiving the recommendations of the Knesset's Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee, that land may be allocated through a process that includes an admission committee, as specified in this law, for continued community towns of over 700 households; the aforementioned order shall specify the maximum number of households.


This law builds upon similar, pre-existing regulations issued by the Israel Land Authority (ILA), which, for years, supported the same discriminatory policy. The 2011 law codified this policy. 

The policy was challenged before the Supreme Court in the Qa’adan case in 2000. In Qa’adan, the Supreme Court overruled a decision by the Jewish community town of Katzir to refuse to sell a plot of land to a Palestinian couple, citizens of Israel, on the basis that they were not Jewish.[1] The court ruled that, because the community had been established on “state land”, the principle of non-discrimination must be upheld, and that a plot of land must therefore be allocated to the Qa’adan family.

A case subsequently brought by Adalah in 2007 challenged a decision by an admissions committee to reject the request of a Palestinian couple to live in the Jewish community town of Rakefet on the basis that they were “socially unsuitable” to live in the town, under the ILA’s regulations.[2] The Supreme Court ordered the town to award a plot of land to the couple. The 2011 Admissions Committee Law was passed while this case was still pending, and as a result, the Supreme Court declined to address the constitutionality of the ILA regulations themselves.

Though the court decisions on these cases purported to uphold the principle of non-discrimination, their practical impact in protecting any semblance of equality in land rights for Palestinians was negligible, even prior to the passage of the Admissions Committees Law. And with the enactment of the law, the Knesset sought to undermine the already limited non-discrimination principles established by the Supreme Court's ruling in the Qa’adan case.

After the law was introduced before the Knesset, one of its original sponsors, David Rotem of the far-right nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home) party, stated that the law’s purpose was to allow for towns to be “established by people who want to live with other Jews”[3]. Yisrael Hasson, another of the bill’s sponsors, stated, “The bill reflects the Knesset’s commitment to work to preserve the ability to realize the Zionist dream in practice in the state of Israel”, through “population dispersal”, which the government began “thirty years ago ... [with] a string of small communities in the Galilee and Negev.”[4] This latter statement refers to decades-long work carried out by the state of Israel to Judaize the Galilee and the Naqab, a process by which the state aims to reduce the living space of Palestinian citizens, and to create new Jewish towns and villages, particularly in areas with a Palestinian majority, in order to consolidate its control over land, its use, and the ‘demographic balance’.

During discussions leading up to the 2023 amendment of the law, the racist intentions behind the legislation became even more apparent. During Knesset deliberations on the law, the Minister of Social Equality Amichai Chikli emphasized, “Today, we find ourselves in the Galilee facing an unprecedented crisis in terms of Jewish settlement…”[5] Member of Knesset Matan Kahana further stated that, ”We are here engaged in promoting Jewish settlement in the Galilee and the periphery. [...] and we need to proclaim it loudly, with great joy, and with great love. [...] Jewish settlement is Zionism…”.

The 2023 amendment introduced several changes to the law aimed at expanding its applicability. Notably, the 2011 law stipulated that towns with up to 400 households were permitted to operate admission committees. The amendment introduced a new category known as a "continued community town," which are towns with 400-700 households that are allowed to operate admission committees, subject to the approval of a special committee. Additionally, the law now specifies that starting in 2028, the Minister of Economy and Industry will have the authority to approve admission committees in towns with more than 700 households. This provision effectively eliminates the restriction on the number of households stated in the law and significantly broadens its applicability.

Why is it discriminatory?

The law empowers admissions committees to reject applicants deemed “unsuitable to the social life of the community… or the social and cultural fabric of the town.” The law also authorizes admissions committees to adopt admission criteria determined by individual community towns themselves, based on their “special characteristics”, including those community towns that have defined themselves as having a “Zionist vision”. Admissions committees thus have broad discretion to reject applicants based on vague, broad and subjective criteria that are deliberately amenable to being exploited as a means of excluding those who are not part of the Jewish social and cultural majority.

The composition of admissions committees, consisting of two representatives from the community town, one representative from the movement with which the community town is affiliated[6], a representative from the Jewish Agency for Israel or the World Zionist Organization, and a representative from the regional council which has jurisdiction over the town, also gives rise to discriminatory practices. The legal requirement to include a representative of the Jewish Agency or World Zionist Organization – organizations that have played a central historical role in land grabs and expressed the explicit intent to discriminate against and exclude Palestinians from the land – on these committees serves to perpetuate racial discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel. The composition of the special committee created to approve “continued community towns”, introduced in the 2023 amendment, closely follows that of the admissions committees, including a representative from the Jewish Agency or World Zionist Organization. Furthermore, this committee is chaired by a representative from the ‘National Missions Ministry’, created in 2022, which, as of 2023, is led by Orit Struck, a leading figure in Hebron’s Jewish settler community and a member of the far-right Jewish Power Party who does not conceal her explicitly racist views towards Palestinians.

While the law stipulates a duty to respect the right to equality and to prevent discrimination (Article 6C(C)), the broad discretion granted to admissions committees and their use of subjective selection criteria, given the racist intentions underlying the law, fundamentally undermine the non-discrimination clause and its ostensible purpose of guaranteeing equal treatment. Indeed, the law provides admissions committees with a legal basis for discrimination against applicants who are Palestinian citizens of Israel, as well as members of other marginalized groups based on their race, ethnicity, religion, or other immutable characteristics.

The law thus violates Israeli domestic law and international human rights law, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 12 of which states that within the territory of a state, everyone shall have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose their residence, and Article 5 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which prohibits racial discrimination in the enjoyment of the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of a state.

Legal challenges to the law:

●      HCJ 7148/23 Adalah, et al. v. The Knesset, et al.

o      On 21 September 2023, Adalah, on behalf of nine human rights organizations submitted a petition to the Supreme Court demanding the nullification of the 2023 amendment to the law, as well as the annulment of original law passed in 2011. Adalah’s petition (Hebrew).

●      HCJ 2504/11, Adalah, et al. v. The Knesset, et al.

o      Overview: On 1 February 2011, the Supreme Court heard Adalah’s petition demanding the cancellation of Admissions Committees. On 4 December 2012, an expanded panel of nine Supreme Court justices heard the final arguments challenging the constitutionality of the law. On 17 September 2014, in a 5 to 4 decision, an expanded panel of the Israeli Supreme Court dismissed the petition brought by Adalah. Four justices on the panel were of the opinion that Amendment No. 8 is wholly or partially unconstitutional due to its disproportionate infringement of the rights to equality, dignity, and privacy. The other justices of the panel (five in number) ruled that the law was not ripe at the time for constitutional review. The Supreme Court held that, “We cannot determine at this stage whether the law violates constitutional rights.” The court’s decision effectively legalized the principle of segregation in housing between Palestinian and Jewish citizens and permitted racist discrimination practices against PCI in hundreds of communities.

o      Summary of court ruling.

o      Adalah’s petition (Hebrew).

International criticism:

●      Israel: New Laws Marginalize Palestinian Arab Citizens, Human Rights Watch, in which the Middle East Director of Human Rights Watch stated, “These laws threaten Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel and others with yet more officially sanctioned discrimination…Israeli parliamentarians should be working hard to end glaring inequality, not pushing through discriminatory laws to control who can live where…”

●      In its 2007 Concluding Observations, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination stated that “It notes that the Israel Land Administration…has adopted new admission criteria for all applicants. It remains concerned, however, that the condition that applicants must be “suitable to a small communal regime” may allow, in practice, for the exclusion of Arab Israeli citizens from some State-controlled land”, and thereby recommended that Israel examine “assess the significance and impact of the social suitability criterion in this regard” and “ensure that state land is allocated without discrimination, direct or indirect.”

●      In its 2020 Concluding Observations, the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination noted, “The Committee reiterates its concern (CERD/C/ISR/CO/14-16, para. 11) that the Israeli society continues to be segregated as it maintains Jewish and non-Jewish sectors, including two systems of education with unequal conditions, as well as separate municipalities, namely Jewish municipalities and the so-called “municipalities of the minorities”, which raises issues under article 3 of the Convention. The Committee is particularly concerned about the continued full discretion of the Admissions Committees to reject applicants deemed “unsuitable to the social life of the community” (arts. 3, 5 and 7).”

●      In its report, Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians: Cruel system of domination and crime against humanity, Amnesty International referred to the Admission Committees Law as facilitating land allocation for Jewish localities in Israel. The report stated that “Adalah has shown that the primary objective of the law is to further marginalize Palestinian citizens of Israel and other marginalized groups in Israel, and to maintain segregation in housing and residence based on national identity.’


[1]  HCJ 6698/95, Adel Qa’dan v. The Israel Land Administration.

[2] HCJ 8036/07, Fatina Ebriq Zubeidat, et al. v. The Israel Land Administration (Authority), et al.

[3] Human Rights Watch, Israel: New Laws Marginalize Palestinian Arab Citizens, 30 March 2011.

[4] Id.

[5] The protocol of the session of the Knesset Committee on Public Projects held on July 20, 2023, is available here [Hebrew].

[6] Community towns are generally affiliated with 'movements' that seek to expand Jewish settlements throughout Israel. For example, many communities are associated with the "Kibbutz Movement," which defines itself as a "Zionist settlement movement" and has over 250 member communities.

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