Last Updated: Friday, 26 December 2014, 13:50 GMT

U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Israel

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1994
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Israel, 30 January 1994, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa4a24.html [accessed 27 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
ISRAEL AND THE OCCUPIED TERRITORIES[1]*

 

Israel is a parliamentary democracy with a multiparty political system and free elections. There is no constitution, but a series of basic laws defines the responsibilities of government institutions. The legislature (The Knesset) can limit the government and force its dissolution. Although Israel has an independent judiciary, the Supreme Court, with few exceptions, has sided with the Government on policy issues of land and security, especially in the occupied territories. Public debate on issues of concern to Israelis is open and lively. A vigorous free press scrutinizes all aspects of Israeli life and politics.

Since Israel's founding in 1948, it has been in a formal state of war with most of its Arab neighbors, except Egypt, with which it concluded a peace treaty in 1979. As a result of the 1967 war, Israel occupied the areas of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the eastern sector of Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights. Throughout its existence as a state, Israel experienced numerous terrorist incidents, within and outside its borders. Israel has relied heavily on its military and security services and has retained many security-related emergency regulations from the preindependence British mandate period.

On September 13, Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) signed an historic Declaration of Principles relating to a transfer of authority from Israel to an interim Palestinian authority. The Declaration lays out a timetable for Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank city of Jericho, scheduled to be completed in the first quarter of 1994. In addition, the Declaration calls for redeployment of Israeli security forces away from populated areas in the West Bank as early as July 1994, which is the target date for the election of a Palestinian council and for the dissolution thereafter of the Israeli military-backed Civilian Administration (CIVAD), which has governed daily life in the occupied territories since 1981. Israel is to continue to control external security, internal security and public order

i. Israeli settlements, foreign relations, and certain other areas until an agreement on permanent status is achieved.

Internal security is the responsibility of the General Security Service (Shin Bet), which is under the authority of the Prime Minister's office. The police are under the authority of a separate minister. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF), which include a significant portion of the Israeli adult population in either active duty or reserve status, also play a role in maintaining internal security. The IDF is under the authority of a civilian Minister of Defense. The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee reviews the activities of the IDF and the Shin Bet.

Israel has a developed market economy. While there is substantial government regulation, intervention, and ownership in the economy, the Government is moving in the direction of reducing state involvement in it. Israel enjoys a relatively high standard of living.

Positive human rights developments, in addition to the ramifications of the September signing of the Israeli-PLO agreement (see report on the occupied territories), included the Knesset's action to eliminate restrictions placed upon membership in or contact with the PLO and court decisions that limited house demolition orders and expanded prisoner rights. Israeli citizens enjoy a wide range of civil and other rights. Israel's main human rights problems arise from its policies and practices in the occupied territories. In addition, while the Government's declared intention has been to close the social and economic gap between the Arab and Jewish sectors of the population within Israel, Israel's Arab citizens still do not share fully in the rights granted to, and the levies imposed on, Jewish citizens. However, in 1993 the Government began seriously to address imbalances in resource allocations to the Arab sector, especially in education and infrastructure development.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

Political killings in Israel are neither practiced nor sanctioned by Israeli authorities. In the context of the extreme political tension between Israel and the Palestinians, intercommunal killings are often assumed to have political motivation. In 1993 authorities ascribed the murders of at least 16 Israelis in Israel to Arab nationalist motivations. In the wake of several killings and stabbings of Israelis by Palestinians from the occupied territories, the Government in March imposed a closure on the occupied territories, sealing off indefinitely the West Bank and Gaza from Jerusalem and Israel. This action resulted in restrictions on the numbers of Palestinians able to work in Israel and travel to Jerusalem.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of government-condoned disappearance.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Although Israeli laws and administrative regulations prohibit such practices, there are credible reports of abuses of Palestinian detainees. (See the occupied territories report for a discussion of mistreatment of prisoners from the occupied territories incarcerated in detention facilities located in Israel.)

Incarceration facilities in Israel and the occupied territories are operated by one of three authorities, the Israeli Prison Service (IPS), the national police, and the Israel Defense Forces. Although the conditions vary greatly among the facilities, all are monitored by various branches of the Israeli Government and members of the Knesset, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and many human rights organizations which have access to the prisons, police jails, and IDF camps. Generally, inmates are not subject to physical abuse by guards, food is adequate, and prisoners receive basic necessities. Security prisoners are subject to a different regime, even in IPS facilities, and as a class they are often denied certain privileges given to prisoners convicted on criminal charges. In general, however, the most severe problem in all facilities is overcrowding, even among facilities run by the IPS.

IPS prisons conform to general international standards which permit inmates to receive mail, have televisions in their cells, and receive regular visits. Prisoners can receive wages for prison work and benefits for good behavior. Many IPS prisons have religious and drug-free wards and educational and recreational programs.

Police detention facilities are intended for short stays prior to trial, but due to chronic overcrowding and slow scheduling for court dates, police detention facilities can become de facto jails for several months. Inmates in these centers frequently are not accorded the same rights and living conditions as prisoners in the regular IPS facilities, and some of these can fall below generally accepted minimum international standards. For example, the Abu Kabir police detention facility in Jaffa has approximately 562 inmates for 466 beds. Prisoners awaiting transfer can be confined for months under these conditions. One U.S. citizen has been confined in a cell with 11 prisoners and 8 beds. He was unable to bathe for over a week. Violence is common in the Abu Kabir facility with weapons made by prisoners from such items as bed legs, spoons, and pens. There were also reports of mixing juveniles with adults as well as pretrial offenders with convicted prisoners.

Prison conditions in the IDF detention camps, which are limited to male Palestinian security prisoners and are guarded by armed soldiers, do not meet minimum international standards and threaten the health of the inmates. The camps use unheated outdoor tents even in severe weather conditions, mix minors and adult prisoners, restrict family visits, and contain minimal recreational facilities. Poor health care in Ketziot prison has resulted in a petition, filed before the High Court in September by a human rights organization composed of medical professionals, to close the camp unless medical conditions are improved. According to the Government, the petition concerning Ketziot, due to be heard at the end of the year, was postponed to March 1994.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Israeli law and practice prohibit arbitrary arrest or imprisonment. Writs of habeas corpus and other procedural and substantive safeguards are available. Defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty. However, administrative detention with no formal charge or trial is permitted under a 1979 law. The Minister of Defense may issue a detention order for a maximum of 6 months. Within 48 hours of issuance of such an order, a detainee must be brought before a district judge. The process of review to confirm, shorten, or overturn a detention order must be carried out as quickly as possible, and, if the order is confirmed, an automatic review must take place after 3 months. Administrative detention orders are renewable. The detainee may be represented by counsel and may appeal to the Supreme Court. The Government may withhold evidence from the detainee and counsel on security grounds. According to the Ministry of Justice, no Israeli citizens were held in administrative detention in 1993. Israel continued to hold most Palestinian administrative detainees from the occupied territories in detention centers inside Israel. The transfer of prisoners from the occupied territories to Israel contravenes Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. (For a full discussion of administrative detention, see the separate report on the occupied territories.)

A judge of a district court may, in cases involving a felony, permit the postponement of notification of an attorney of the arrested person. This period normally cannot exceed 48 hours. It may, however, be extended for a total of 7 days when the Minister of Defense has certified in writing that national security requires the arrest to be kept secret or if the Inspector General of Police certifies in writing that secrecy is required in the interest of the investigation. The law also allows an extension of up to 15 days in cases involving certain security offenses, such as espionage.

The whereabouts of 10 Lebanese detainees is not known, according to human rights groups. The Government of Israel acknowledges holding the 10, but the disposition of their cases, as well as those of 12 Lebanese prisoners who have served their sentences, appears to be linked to Israeli efforts to obtain definitive information on the fate of Israeli prisoners of war and others missing in action in Lebanon.

Israel does not exile its citizens. (See the separate report on the occupied territories for discussion of deportations).

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

There are both civil and military courts in the judicial system. There are also religious courts, labor relations courts, and other administrative tribunals. Although the judiciary is independent, the Israeli Supreme Court has, with rare exceptions, sided with the Government on policy issues of land and security, especially in the occupied territories. According to human rights lawyers, in the few instances the court has ruled in favor of individuals it has been on procedural grounds. The right to a hearing by an impartial tribunal with representation by counsel is guaranteed by law and observed in practice. All nonsecurity trials are open except for those in which the interests of parties are deemed best served by privacy. Security cases may be tried before a military court or a civil court and may be partly or wholly closed to the public. The Attorney General determines whether a security case is tried before a military or civil court.

The prosecution must justify nonpublic proceedings. Defense counsel is present, even during closed proceedings, but may be denied access to some evidence on security grounds. In security cases in which access to some evidence is denied, that evidence may not be used to convict a defendant.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

Although privacy of the individual and the home are generally protected by law within Israel, interference with mail and the tapping of telephones are practiced in some cases. Israeli law permits wiretapping by court order in criminal cases; in security cases the order must be issued by the Ministry of Defense. Emergency regulations permit mail to be stopped, opened, and even destroyed on security grounds.

g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal Conflicts

(See the separate reports on the occupied territories and Lebanon for discussions of excessive use of force.)

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

Although individuals, organizations, the press, and the electronic media freely debate a wide range of public issues and criticize government officials and policies, emergency regulations authorize censorship and outlaw statements and written materials that express or encourage support for illegal organizations. Publications and domestic or foreign press articles dealing with security-related matters must be submitted to the military censor. Arabic-language publications and press are censored more strictly than Hebrew-language equivalents. In 1993 the Supreme Court rescinded a closure order against the Arabic-language newspaper With the People. The newspaper had been closed because its editor was the former editor of another publication that had been closed for inciting its readers to action against the State and the IDF. No other Arabic-language newspapers were closed in 1993.

The Government occasionally initiates prosecution for statements or writings on behalf of terrorist organizations; such action is almost always directed against Israeli Arabs. The Government asserts that at various times it has prosecuted Jewish individuals and groups for inflammatory statements and writings. No cases were filed against Jews in 1993, but investigations into statements made by members of the Kach and Kahane Chai, ultranationalist extremist organizations, are currently under way. In 1992 the poet Shafiq Habib received a suspended sentence carrying a stipulation that he not engage again in the type of activity of which he was accused and a 3-year probationary period as well as a fine for violating the 1949 Antiterror Act which bans the publication of statements praising, supporting, or encouraging any acts of violence that could lead to personal injury or death. Habib had published poems in 1990 which, according to government officials, praised the revolutionary aspect of the Intifada. In 1993 Habib was acquitted of these charges by a district court on appeal, and the High Court has refused to review the case.

All newspapers are privately owned and managed. Newspaper licenses are valid only for Israel; to distribute publications inside the occupied territories, separate licenses are required. The quasi-independent Israel Broadcast Authority, whose director is appointed by the Government, retains significant control over electronic media. There are now six cable companies operating in Israel under franchises granted by cable councils whose members are appointed by the Government. Three companies were awarded franchises in 1993 to start a second television channel which has brought commercial television to Israel for the first time.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law and court rulings protect the rights of Israelis to assemble and associate. In 1993 the Knesset repealed the 1986 amendment to the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance under which Israelis were prohibited from membership in, or contact with, outlawed organizations, primarily the Palestine Liberation Organization, its subdivisions, or its individual members.

c. Freedom of Religion

Israeli law provides strong guarantees of freedom for all faiths. Approximately 82 percent of Israeli citizens are Jewish. Muslims, Christians, and Druze, and members of other minority religions make up the remaining 18 percent. Each recognized religious community in Israel has legal authority over its members in matters of marriage and divorce. Secular courts have primacy over questions of inheritance, but parties, by mutual agreement, may bring the case to religious courts. Orthodox religious authorities have exclusive control over marriage, divorce, and burial in all sectors of the Jewish community, whether or not they are Orthodox.

Missionaries are allowed to work in Israel. According to the Justice Ministry, the Government has not applied a 1977 antiproselytizing law, prohibiting the offering and receipt of material benefits as an inducement to conversion, against any individuals or organizations for several years.

Travel to visit religious sites or perform religious obligations in and outside Israeli is widely permitted. (See separate report on the occupied territories on denial of rights of Muslim and Christian Palestinians to worship at holy places.) In 1993 Israel approved the pilgrimage to Mecca (for both the hajj and the umra) of over 4,000 Israeli Muslims. However, for security reasons, the Government forbids participation in the hajj by males under 30 years of age. The Government asserts that travel to Saudi Arabia, a country formally still in a state of war with Israel, is a privilege and not a right for Israeli Muslims. In 1993 the Government welcomed the visit of 192 Libyan pilgrims to Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Israeli citizens may move freely within Israel except in military or security zones or in cases where they may be confined to their neighborhood or village by administrative order under emergency regulations. Israeli citizens are free to travel abroad and to emigrate, provided they have no outstanding military obligations or are not restricted by administrative order.

Israel welcomes Jewish immigrants and family members, including Jewish refugees, to whom it gives automatic citizenship and residence rights under the Law of Return. It accepts the return of Jewish Israeli citizens who have emigrated. The Law of Return does not apply to Israeli Arabs or to persons of Jewish descent who have converted to another faith. Under the principle of family reunification, Israel has allowed the return of a few Arab refugees who fled Israel in 1948-1949 (the Government claims that 100,000 Arabs were allowed to return to Israel after the 1949 armistice agreement) but has rejected the great majority of requests by such refugees to return. Israel offered temporary haven to 100 Bosnian Muslims, victims of the civil strife in their country.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

Israeli citizens have the right and ability to change their government peacefully. Israel is a parliamentary democracy, with a multitude of parties representing a wide range of political views. Relatively small parties, including those whose primary support is among Israeli Arabs, regularly win seats in the Knesset. All adult Israeli citizens have the right to participate in the political process and to vote by secret ballot. According to official figures, 77.4 percent of Israeli citizens over the age of 18 voted in the 1992 parliamentary elections.

Two women serve as Cabinet ministers, and there are 11 women in the Knesset. Two Arab Israelis serve as deputy ministers in the current Cabinet. There are 6 Arab members (and 2 Druze members) in the 120-member Knesset.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

Private Israeli organizations are active in publicizing and litigating human rights issues and cases. Israel is generally responsive to international and nongovernmental interest in its human rights situation and treats seriously responsible challenges to its human rights practices.

Human rights groups may litigate general questions of law or go before the courts on clients' behalf. Israel permits regular visits by a wide range of private and international organizations concerned with human rights such as Amnesty International (AI), Middle East Watch, the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, the International Labor Organization (ILO), and others. It hosts and works with a delegation of the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC).

The Justice Ministry has a human rights office which responds to human rights inquiries, and the Government has designated specific points of contact within the Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs to prepare responses to human rights inquiries from foreign governments, international bodies, and human rights organizations.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Equal Opportunity Employment Law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, marital status, or sexual orientation. The Labor Exchange Law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, religion, political beliefs, and age. A general law prohibits government bodies from practicing discrimination on any of these grounds.

Women

The Equal Opportunity Law requires employers to pay male and female workers equal wages for equal work. In 1993 a new law was passed that prohibited discrimination in unemployment compensation benefits paid to elderly female citizens. However, women's advocacy groups, which are very active in Israel, report that women routinely receive lower wages, are promoted less often, and benefit from fewer career opportunities than male counterparts.

Domination of personal status law by religious courts means that women are subject to restrictive interpretations of their rights in such crucial areas as marriage and divorce. In 1993 common law spouses were entitled to take the family names of their partners, helping to mitigate problems faced by unmarried couples. In 1993 women's groups stepped up their protest of the rabbinical authorities' refusal to require husbands to grant divorces to a number of women claiming marital abuse or neglect.

Women are drafted into the IDF but do not serve in combat positions.

The Government asserts it condemns violence against women, and the subject is being dealt with on an ongoing basis. The courts in Israel deal with persons convicted of violence, including violence against women. In 1991 the Government passed the Law for the Prevention of Family Violence, which allows legal authorities to act expeditiously to ban violent family members' access to property. In the last 2 years, enforcement of the law has improved markedly as women's groups cooperate with legal and social service institutions to educate primarily women about their rights under this law. Women's groups and the Government have collaborated on opening seven shelters for battered women, while the women's movement Na'amat operates four counseling centers for battered women. Women's groups also lobby for higher conviction rates and harsher sentences for men accused of perpetrating violent acts, including rape, against women. Government and advocacy groups estimate that at least 10 percent of Israeli women over the age of 15 are liable to experience violent attacks.

Children

The Government has a strong commitment to the rights and welfare of children. While there is no pattern of societal abuse against children, the Government has legislated against sexual, physical, and psychological abuse of children and has mandated comprehensive reporting requirements to assure close attention to the issue. Prostitution involving children – mostly adolescents – has been reported in isolated cases and has been promptly dealt with by appropriate authorities. A combination of police and educational and social welfare officials are charged with monitoring cases of abuse and administering government programs to treat the victims.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Israeli Arabs, who constitute 18 percent of the population, are not provided with the same quality of education, housing, employment, and social services as Israeli Jews. For security reasons, Israeli Arabs are not allowed to work in companies with defense contracts or in security-related fields. In 1993 the Government moved to redress inequities in resource allocations to Arab sectors but acknowledges that gaps remain in a number of areas, including education, health, infrastructure development, and public sector employment. The Sheves Plan, adopted in 1993, for the first time recognized Arab municipalities as developmental areas, entitling them to government benefits. The new policy now recognizes the geographical, rather than the ethnic, basis of an area as the main determinant of eligibility for priority government funding.

Relative to their numbers, Israeli Arabs are underrepresented in the student bodies and faculties of most universities and in higher level professional and business ranks. The Arabic-speaking community has access to local and foreign Arabic press, publications, and media. The Israeli Druze and Circassian communities, at their initiative, are subject to Israel's military draft, and some Bedouin and other Arabs serve voluntarily. Other than Druze and Muslim but non-Arab Circassians, Israeli Arabs are not subject to the draft. Consequently, they have less access than do other Israelis to a variety of social and economic benefits for which military service is a prerequisite or an advantage, including housing and new-household subsidies and government or security-related industrial employment. The Government has decided to award national insurance equally to veterans of the IDF and those who have not served in the army. The Government has also determined that, within a 3-year period starting in 1994, it will bring social security child bonus allowances for parents who have not served in the army in line with those for parents who have. The Government asserts that it maintains an open door policy with respect to Israeli Arabs who volunteer for military service and that hundreds of Muslim and Christian Arabs are voluntarily inducted into the IDF and serve in various units, including the infantry, armored corps, and paratroopers. Parts of the Israeli Arab community have objected to the idea of alternative national service.

The problem of the legal status of unrecognized Arab villages remained unresolved in 1993. The Government promised to study the situation of the villages but offered no solutions. Residents of the village of Ramyah (see the 1991 and 1992 country reports) continued to negotiate the future of their village after the Government stayed an order of eviction against them in 1992. A private member's bill before the Knesset proposing that the pre-1948 residents of the villages of Bir Am and Ikrit or their descendants be permitted to rebuild their houses there has passed a first reading and has now been referred to a Knesset committee for preparation of the law for its second and third readings.

Religious Minorities

In general the Government respects freedom of religion and protects the rights of citizens of all creeds to worship freely. In those civic areas where religion is a determinant criterion – primarily religious courts and religious centers of education – non-Jewish institutions routinely receive less state support than Jewish counterparts. Immigration to Israel is significantly easier for those who are Jewish than for non-Jews. The Government generally respects and protects non-Jewish religious sites. Muslim organizations continue to demand that cemeteries and an unused mosque in Beersheba be protected. In 1993 the Government allowed Libyan pilgrims to visit Jerusalem and encouraged the attendance of Syrian and Lebanese Druze at the funeral of the sect's religious leader in northern Israel. At year's end, Arabs in the city of Jaffa were trying to prevent the building of housing units over a Muslim cemetery in Kfar Shalem. The High Court turned down an appeal by Jaffa's supreme Islamic committee which had argued that the land in question had been illegally acquired by a joint government/municipality building company.

People with Disabilities

The Government provides a range of benefits, including income maintenance, housing subsidies, and transportation support, for the approximately 10 percent of the Israeli population who have disabilities. While the law provides for equal treatment of disabled persons, advocacy groups report continued difficulties with enforcement in the areas of employment and housing. The law also requires public buildings to provide complete access for disabled persons, but it is not widely enforced. There is no law providing for access to public transportation.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

Israeli workers may join freely established organizations of their own choosing. Israeli Arabs are free to form their own unions but have not done so. Most unions belong to the General Federation of Labor in Israel (Histadrut) or to a much smaller rival federation and are independent of the Government, although a majority of the elected union leadership is identified with the Labor Party and a significant Likud Party minority. About 60 percent of the work force, including Israeli Arabs, are members of the Histadrut trade unions, and an additional 15-20 percent are covered by Histadrut's social and insurance programs and collective bargaining agreements. Histadrut members democratically elect national and local officers and officials of its affiliated women's organization, Naamat, from political party lists. Plant or enterprise committee members are elected individually.

The right to strike is exercised regularly. A 15-day notice prior to a strike or a lockout is legally mandated unless otherwise specified in the collective bargaining agreement, but unauthorized strikes also occur. Strike leaders – even those organizing illegal strikes – are protected by law. If essential public services are affected, the Government may appeal to labor courts for back-to-work orders while negotiations continue. The Government had recourse to this right during a 2-week general strike in the public sector in July. Other strikes in 1993 were concentrated in the health and public sectors.

Unions freely exercise their right to form federations and affiliate internationally. The lifting of the Israeli ban on contacts with the PLO and the signing of the Declaration of Principles have led to the beginning of an informal dialog between Histadrut and the representatives of Palestinian trade unions in the occupied territories on issues of mutual interest. Nonresident workers, including the approximately 52,000 nonresident Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza currently working legally in Israel, may not be members of Israeli trade unions and thus may not belong to union health systems or participate in union elections or other activities.

Palestinian workers may not organize their own trade unions within Israel. Palestinian trade unions in the occupied territories are not permitted to operate in Israel. However, nonresident workers in the organized sector, including Palestinians from the occupied territories, are entitled to Histadrut contract and grievance protection and may join, vote for, and be elected to shop-level workers' committees if their numbers in individual establishments exceed a minimum threshold. Palestinian participation in such committees is minimal. Labor laws applicable in Israel also apply to Palestinians in east Jerusalem and Syrian Druze on the Golan Heights (see the occupied territories report for discussion of worker rights in east Jerusalem and the West Bank and Gaza.)

b. The Right To Organize and Bargain Collectively

Israelis fully exercise their legal right to organize and bargain collectively. While there is no law specifically prohibiting antiunion discrimination, the basic law against discrimination could be cited to contest discrimination based on union membership. No antiunion discrimination has been reported. Nonresident workers may not organize on their own or bargain collectively but are entitled to representation by the bargaining agent and the protection of collective bargaining agreements. They do not pay union membership fees but pay a 1-percent agency fee which entitles them to union protection by Histadrut's collective bargaining agreements. Israelis fully exercise their legal right to organize and bargain collectively. The Ministry of Labor can and does extend collective bargaining agreements in one sector to nonunionized workplaces in the same sector. The Ministry of Labor also oversees personal contracts and wage arrangements in unorganized sectors of the economy.

There are currently no export processing zones, although a government bill authorizing creation of such zones has been approved by the Cabinet and is currently pending in the Knesset. The city of Eilat is a duty-free area in which all relevant Israeli labor laws apply.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, and neither Israeli citizens nor nonresident Palestinians working in Israel are subject to such practices.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

By law, children under age 15 may not be employed. Schoolchildren aged 15 may not be employed without special permission except as apprentices or during school vacations. Employment of those aged 16 to 18 is restricted to ensure time for rest and education. Israeli labor exchanges do not process work applications for West Bank or Gaza Palestinians under age 17, and often higher age requirements are imposed for security reasons. Ministry of Labor Inspectors enforce these laws, but advocates of children's rights charge that enforcement is lax, especially in smaller, unorganized workplaces.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Legislation in 1987 established a minimum wage at 45 percent of the average wage, calculated periodically and adjusted for cost of living increases. As of August 1993, the minimum wage was about $499 (NIS 1396.77) per month. The Ministry of Labor is charged with enforcing minimum wage regulations. In 1993 the Government increased resources available to tighten the enforcement of minimum wage legislation but continued to identify this as a problem. The minimum wage is often supplemented by special allowances and is generally sufficient to provide workers and their families an acceptable standard of living.

By law, maximum hours of work at regular pay are 47 hours per week, 8 per day, and 7 the day before the weekly rest, which must be at least 36 consecutive hours and include the Sabbath. By national collective agreements, the private sector established a maximum 45-hour workweek in 1988, while the public sector moved to a 5-day, 42-1/2 hour workweek in 1989.

Along with union representatives, the Labor Inspection Service enforces labor, health, and safety standards in the workplace, although resource constraints affect overall enforcement. Legislation protects the employment rights of safety delegates elected or appointed from among the employees of an enterprise and charged with overseeing, in conjunction with management, the overall safety and health of the work force. Workers do not have the legislated right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardy to continued employment. However, collective bargaining agreements in some sectors provide the worker with recourse through the work site labor committee. In addition, any worker may challenge unsafe work practices through appropriate government oversight and legal agencies.

For the first 3 months of 1993, the Government continued to enforce restrictions on West Bank and Gazan workers imposed in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf war requiring employers to register all Palestinian employees with government agencies and requiring all Palestinian workers seeking employment in Israel to qualify for a government-issued "magnetic card" which permits access to Israel and also serves as a work permit. In late March, after a series of attacks against Israelis, the Government closed access to Israel from the occupied territories. The Government gradually applied new occupational quotas, stricter criteria regarding age and marital status, and additional security checks for Palestinians seeking to work in Israel. In the succeeding months, these criteria were gradually relaxed but not removed. As a result the number of workers from the occupied territories employed through the Israeli employment service labor exchanges fell from 74,000 in February to 8,500 in mid-April before rising to 52,000 by December. (The latter figure excludes Palestinians working in Jerusalem, transportation services, or diplomatic missions.) Prior to the March closure of the territories, an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 unregistered workers from the occupied territories entered Israel to work. Government officials estimated in December that between 10,000 and 15,000 unregistered Palestinian workers were employed in Israel. All workers from the territories are employed on a daily basis and, unless they are employed on shiftwork, are not authorized to spend the night in Israel. Police carry out identity checks of Palestinians found outside the workplace and arrest and fine those without valid work permits.

Palestinians working in Israel are technically covered by the laws and collective bargaining agreements that cover Israeli workers, including minimum wage, sick leave, severance pay, paid vacations, and pensions administered by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. However, it is widely believed that most Palestinian workers do not receive the full benefits to which they are entitled under these laws and agreements. In return for their NII contributions, Palestinian workers receive some of the benfits Israeli workers receive but do not have access to unemployment insurance, general disability payments, low-income supplements, child allotments or maternity leave, all of which are provided to Israeli workers. In 1993 the Government made public for the first time parts of the civil administration budget relating to programs carried out in the occupied territories.

Palestinians working in Israel are paid through the employment service of the Labor Ministry, which receives their wages and benefits from employers and pays the recipient after deducting taxes, a 1-percent union fee, and contributions to the National Insurance Institute (NII). The same percentage (5.35 percent) for NII contributions is deducted from the pay of legally hired Palestinians and from Israeli workers. In return for their NII contributions, Palestinian workers receive some, but not all, of the benefits Israeli workers receive. Because of these restrictions, only 1.2 percent of Palestinian workers' pay goes to the NII. The remaining 4.15 percent is nonetheless deducted from their pay in order to equalize the labor costs of Palestinians and Israelis. The ILO has long criticized this inequality in entitlements. These funds are deposited with the Finance Ministry, which applies them to programs administered by the Government in the West Bank and Gaza. In 1993 the Government made public parts of this budget for the first time.

In 1991 an employer brought suit to the Supreme Court, arguing that Palestinian workers and their employers should have to contribute only that part of the salary that applied to benefits directly received by the employee. In response to the Supreme Court's recommendation, the Government formed an interagency committee to study the issue. In 1993 the committee issued draft legislation that would essentially institutionalize the status quo. The proposed legislation remained under Knesset review at the end of 1993. Also at the end of 1993 a human rights organization announced plans to file a class-action suit against the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs for failing to provide equal benefits to Israeli and Palestinian workers employed in Israel. Israeli settlers living in the occupied territories but working inside Israel have the same benefits as all other Israeli workers.



[1]* Because the legal status and the political and human rights conditions of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem differ sharply from those in Israel, the situation in those territories is dealt with in a separate report following the report for Israel. (Ed.: This information is included as a separate entry.)

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