1. The Committee considered the initial report of Israel on the implementation
of the Covenant (E/1990/5/Add.39), together with the written replies
to the list of issues, at its 31st to 33rd meetings, held on 17 and
18 November 1998, and adopted at its 53rd meeting (nineteenth session)
held on 2 December 1998 the following concluding observations.
2. The Committee welcomes the submission of the initial report which
generally conforms to its guidelines on the preparation of reports.
The Committee regrets, however, the delay in the submission of the
3. The Committee expresses appreciation for the presentation of the
State's representatives and the additional information they provided
during the dialogue. The Committee also takes note of the extensive
information submitted to it by a large number of non-governmental
organizations which was available to the Committee for its dialogue
with the State party.
B. Positive factors
4. The Committee welcomes the enactment in 1995 of the National Health
Insurance Law which provides for primary health care and ensures equal
and adequate health services for each citizen and permanent resident
The Committee also welcomes the amendment in 1996 of the same law
to enable housewives to receive the minimum old-age pension while
remaining exempt from contributions.
5. The Committee welcomes the recent establishment of the Authority
for the Advancement of the Status of Women which is vested with advisory
powers with respect to policies to promote gender equality, eliminate
discrimination against women and prevent domestic violence against
6. The Committee takes note of the statement by State party's representatives
that with respect to the Covenant's applicability in the occupied
territories, Israel accepts direct responsibility in some areas covered
by the Covenant, indirect responsibility in other areas and overall
significant legal responsibility across the board. This conforms to
the Committee's view that the Covenant applies to all areas where
Israel maintains geographical, functional or personal jurisdiction.
C. Factors and difficulties affecting the implementation of the
7. The Committee notes that Israel's emphasis on its security concerns,
including its policies on closures, has hampered the realization of
economic, social and cultural rights within Israel and the occupied
D. Principal subjects of concern
Land and people
8. The Committee notes with concern that the Government's written
and oral reports included statistics indicating the enjoyment of the
rights enshrined in the Covenant by Israeli settlers in the occupied
territories but that the Palestinian population within the same jurisdictional
areas were excluded from both the report and the protection of the
Covenant. The Committee is of the view that the State's obligations
under the Covenant apply to all territories and populations under
its effective control. The Committee therefore regrets that the State
party was not prepared to provide adequate information in relation
to the occupied territories.
Status of the Covenant
9. The Committee notes that economic, social and cultural rights have
not been granted constitutional recognition in Israel's legal system.
The Committee is of the view that the current Draft Basic Law: Social
Rights does not meet the requirements of Israel's obligations under
10. The Committee expresses concern that excessive emphasis upon the
State as a "Jewish State" encourages discrimination and accords a
second-class status to its non-Jewish citizens. The Committee notes
with concern that the Government of Israel does not accord equal rights
to its Arab citizens, although they comprise over 19 per cent of the
total population. This discriminatory attitude is apparent in the
lower standard of living of Israeli Arabs as a result, inter alia,
of lack of access to housing, water, electricity and health care and
their lower level of education. The Committee also notes with concern
that despite the fact that the Arabic language has official status
in law, it is not given equal importance in practice.
11. The Committee notes with grave concern that the Status Law of
1952 authorizes the World Zionist Organization/Jewish Agency and its
subsidiaries, including the Jewish National Fund, to control most
of the land in Israel, since these institutions are chartered to benefit
Jews exclusively. Despite the fact that the institutions are chartered
under private law, the State of Israel nevertheless has a decisive
influence on their policies and thus remains responsible for their
activities. A State party cannot divest itself of its obligations
under the Covenant by privatizing governmental functions. The Committee
takes the view that large-scale and systematic confiscation of Palestinian
land and property by the State and the transfer of that property to
these agencies constitute an institutionalized form of discrimination
because these agencies by definition would deny the use of these properties
to non-Jews. Thus, these practices constitute a breach of Israel's
obligations under the Covenant.
12. The Committee notes with deep concern the situation of the Jahalin
Bedouin families who were forcibly evicted from their ancestral lands
to make way for the expansion of the Ma'aleh Adumim and Kedar settlements.
The Committee deplores the manner in which the Government of Israel
has housed these families - in steel container vans in a garbage dump
in Abu Dis in subhuman living conditions. The Committee regrets that
instead of providing assurances that this matter will be resolved,
the State party has insisted that it can only be solved through litigation.
13. The Committee notes with concern that the Law of Return, which
allows any Jew from anywhere in the world to immigrate and thereby
virtually automatically enjoy residence and obtain citizenship in
Israel, discriminates against Palestinians in the diaspora upon whom
the Government of Israel has imposed restrictive requirements which
make it almost impossible to return to their land of birth.
14. The Committee notes with concern the rapid growth of unemployment
in Israel as a result of which more and more workers are employed
in low-paying part-time work where they have little or no legal protection.
15. The Committee notes with regret that more than 72 per cent of
persons with disabilities are unemployed. The new Law of Equality
for People with Disabilities 1998 has not set any quota for the employment
of such persons.
16. The Committee is alarmed that only half of the workers entitled
to the minimum wage actually get it, and that foreign workers, Palestinians
and "manpower contractor" workers are particularly vulnerable in this
17. The Committee regrets that the Government of Israel has
maintained "general closures" continuously since 1993, thereby restricting
and controlling the movement of people and goods between Israel and
the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, between Jerusalem and the West Bank
and between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The Committee notes
with concern that these restrictions apply only to Palestinians and
not to Jewish Israeli citizens. The Committee is of the view that
closures have cut off Palestinians from their own land and resources,
resulting in widespread violations of their economic, social and cultural
rights, including in particular those contained in article 1 (2) of
18. The Committee notes with grave concern the severe consequences
of closure on the Palestinian population. Closures have prevented
access to health care, first and foremost during medical emergencies,
which at times have tragically ended in death at checkpoints and elsewhere.
Workers from the occupied territories are prevented from reaching
their workplaces, depriving them of income and livelihood and the
enjoyment of their rights under the Covenant. Poverty and lack of
food aggravated by closures particularly affect children, pregnant
women and the elderly who are most vulnerable to malnutrition.
19. The Committee is concerned at the forcible separation of Palestinian
families because of closures and the refusal of Israeli authorities
to allow students in Gaza to return to their universities in the West
Permanent residency law
20. The Committee expresses its concern at the effect of the directive
of the Ministry of the Interior, according to which Palestinians may
lose their right to live in the city if they cannot prove that East
Jerusalem has been their "centre of life" for the past seven years.
The Committee also regrets a serious lack of transparency in the application
of the directive, as indicated by numerous reports. The Committee
notes with concern that this policy is being applied retroactively
both to Palestinians who live abroad and to those who live in the
West Bank or in nearby Jerusalem suburbs, but not to Israeli Jews
or to foreign Jews who are permanent residents of East Jerusalem.
This system has resulted in, inter alia, the separation of
Arab families and the denial of their right to social services and
health care, including maternity care for Arab women, which are privileges
linked to residency status in Jerusalem. The Committee is deeply concerned
that the implementation of a quota system for the reunification of
Palestinian families affected by this residency law involves long
delays and does not meet the needs of all divided families. Similarly,
the granting of residency status is often a long process and, as a
result, many children are separated from at least one of their parents
and spouses are not able to live together.
Land use and housing
21. The Committee is deeply concerned about the adverse impact of
the growing exclusion faced by Palestinians in East Jerusalem from
the enjoyment of their economic, social and cultural rights. The Committee
is also concerned over the continued Israeli policies of building
settlements to expand the boundaries of East Jerusalem and of transferring
Jewish residents into East Jerusalem with the result that they now
outnumber the Palestinian residents.
22. The Committee deplores the continuing practices of the Government
of Israel of home demolitions, land confiscations and restrictions
on family reunification and residency rights, and its adoption of
policies which result in substandard housing and living conditions,
including extreme overcrowding and lack of services, of Palestinians
in East Jerusalem, in particular in the old city.
23. The Committee notes with concern the situation of Arab neighbourhoods
in mixed cities such as Jaffa and Lod which have deteriorated into
virtual slums because of Israel's excessively restrictive system of
granting government permits without which it is illegal to undertake
any kind of structural repair or renovation.
24. The Committee notes that despite State party's obligation under
article 11 of the Covenant, the Government of Israel continues to
expropriate Palestinian lands and resources for the expansion of Israeli
settlements. Thousands of dunams (hectares) of land in the West Bank
have recently been confiscated to build 20 new bypass roads which
cut West Bank towns off from outlying villages and farmlands. The
consequence - if not the motivation - is the fragmentation and isolation
of the Palestinian communities and facilitation of the expansion of
illegal settlements. The Committee also notes with concern that while
the Government annually diverts millions of cubic metres of water
from the West Bank's Eastern Aquifer Basin, the annual per capita
consumption allocation for Palestinians is only 125 cubic metres while
settlers are allocated 1,000 cubic metres per capita.
25. The Committee expresses its concern over the plight of an estimated
200,000 uprooted "present absentees", Palestinian Arab citizens of
Israel most of whom were forced to leave their villages during the
1948 war on the understanding that they would be allowed by the Government
of Israel to return after the war. Although a few have been given
back their property, the vast majority continue to be displaced and
dispossessed within the State because their lands were confiscated
and not returned to them.
26. The Committee notes with deep concern that a significant proportion
of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel continue to live in unrecognized
villages without access to water, electricity, sanitation and roads.
Such an existence has caused extreme difficulties for the villagers
in regard to their access to health care, education and employment
opportunities. In addition, these villagers are continuously threatened
with demolition of their home and confiscation of their land. The
Committee regrets the inordinate delay in the provision of essential
services to even the few villages that have been recognized. In this
connection, the Committee takes note that while Jewish settlements
are constructed on a regular basis, no new Arab villages have been
built in the Galilee.
27. The Committee regrets that the Regional Master Plan for the Northern
District of Israel and the Plan for the Negev have projected a future
where there is little place for Arab citizens of Israel whose needs
arising from natural demographic growth are largely ignored.
28. The Committee expresses its grave concern about the situation
of the Bedouin Palestinians settled in Israel. The number of Bedouins
living below the poverty line, their living and housing conditions,
their levels of malnutrition, unemployment and infant mortality are
all significantly higher than the national averages. They have no
access to water, electricity and sanitation and are subjected on a
regular basis to land confiscations, house demolitions, fines for
building "illegally", destruction of agricultural fields and trees,
and systematic harassment and persecution by the Green Patrol. The
Committee notes in particular that the Government's policy of settling
Bedouins in seven "townships" has caused high levels of unemployment
and loss of livelihood.
29. The Committee notes with regret the large gaps within the Israeli
educational system. Dropout rates are higher and eligibility for matriculation
certificates is lower within certain segments of society: Arabs and
Jews in poor neighbourhoods and in development towns, where many of
the residents are Jews of Asian and African origin, including Ethiopian
Jews. The Committee is particularly concerned about the gap in educational
expenditure per capita for the Arab sector which is substantially
less than for the Jewish sector.
30. The Committee notes with concern that the recently adopted Arrangements
Law has the effect of eroding the principles of universality and equality
set out in the National Health Insurance Law. The Arrangements Law
imposes payments for medical services in addition to the health tax;
a periodic health tax links the amount of tax required to the amount
of health services needed, thereby increasing inequality in health
care. In spite of assurances that the Knesset sets a cap on such taxes,
the Committee is concerned that this provision does not conform to
the Government's avowed commitment to an equitable health-care system.
31. The Committee notes with grave concern the high incidence of domestic
violence against women which is estimated at 200,000 cases per year.
The Committee is concerned about the situation of non-Jewish women
who are reportedly worse off in terms of living conditions, health
and education. The Committee is concerned at persistent reports that
the Dimona nuclear plant could pose a serious threat to the right
to health and to the environment unless urgent preventive measures
E. Suggestions and recommendations
32. The Committee requests the State party to provide additional information
on the realization of economic, social and cultural rights in the
occupied territories, in order to complete the State party's initial
report and thereby ensure full compliance with its reporting obligations.
Detailed information, including the latest statistical data, is also
requested on the progressive realization of economic, social and cultural
rights in East Jerusalem, keeping in mind the concerns raised by the
Committee in the relevant paragraphs of these concluding observations.
In addition, the Committee also requests updated information on the
target dates for recognizing unrecognized villages and a plan for
the delivery of basic services, including water, electricity, access
roads, health care and primary education, to which the villagers are
entitled as citizens of Israel. The Committee requests that the additional
information also include an update of the Outline Plan of Ein Hod
and on progress in the recognition of Arab El-Na'im, as well as an
update on the Jahalin Bedouins who are presently camped in Abu Dis
awaiting a court decision on their resettlement. The Committee requests
the submission of the detailed additional information in this respect
in time for the twenty-third session of the Committee in November-December
33. The Committee calls upon the State party to undertake the necessary
steps to ensure the full legal application of the Covenant within
the domestic legal order.
34. The Committee calls upon the State party to ensure equality of
treatment of all Israeli citizens in relation to all Covenant rights.
35. The Committee urges the State party to review the status of its
relationship with the World Zionist Organization/Jewish Agency and
its subsidiaries, including the Jewish National Fund, with a view
to remedying the problems identified in paragraph 11 above.
36. In order to ensure respect of article 1 (2) of the Covenant and
to ensure equality of treatment and non-discrimination, the Committee
strongly recommends a review of re-entry policies for Palestinians
who wish to re-establish their domicile in their homeland, with a
view to bringing such policies level with the Law of Return as applied
37. The Committee calls upon the State party to take all necessary
steps to reduce unemployment and to ensure proper enforcement of Israel's
protective labour legislation, including assigning additional personnel
to enforce such legislation. Special attention should be accorded
to enforcing the Minimum Wage Law, the Equal Pay for Men and Women
Law, and the Equal Opportunities in Employment Law.
38. The Committee calls upon the State party to complete the process
of implementing the Law of Equality for People with Disabilities and
to address the problem of accessibility to public buildings, including
schools, and public transportation by persons with disabilities.
39. The Committee urges the State party to respect the right to self-determination
as recognized in article 1 (2) of the Covenant, which provides that
"in no way may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence".
Closure restricts the movement of people and goods, cutting off access
to external markets and to income derived from employment and livelihood.
The Committee also calls upon the Government to give full effect to
its obligations under the Covenant and, as a matter of the highest
priority, to undertake to ensure safe passage at checkpoints for Palestinian
medical staff and people seeking treatment, the unhampered flow of
essential foodstuffs and supplies, the safe conduct of students and
teachers to and from schools, and the reunification of families separated
40. The Committee calls upon the State party to reassess its Permanent
Residency Law with a view to ensuring that its implementation does
not result in impeding the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural
rights by Palestinians in East Jerusalem. In particular, the Committee
urges the State party to remove the quota system currently in place
so that families separated by residency rules can be reunited without
41. The Committee calls upon the State party to cease the practices
of facilitating the building of illegal settlements and constructing
bypass roads, expropriating land, water and resources, demolishing
houses and arbitrary evictions. The Committee urges the State party
immediately to take steps to respect and implement the right to an
adequate standard of living, including housing, of the Palestinian
residents of East Jerusalem and the Palestinian Arabs in the mixed
cities. The Committee strongly recommends equal access to housing
and settlement on State land for the "present absentees" who are citizens
of Israel. The Committee recalls in this connection its General Comment
42. The Committee urges the State party to recognize the existing
Arab Bedouin villages, the land rights of the inhabitants and their
right to basic services, including water.
43. The Committee calls upon the State party to undertake measures
addressing the inequalities in the educational system at the secondary
and university levels, particularly in terms of budget allocations.
The Committee recommends that a study be made of the viability of
establishing an Arab university within Israel for the purpose of ensuring
equal opportunities and access to higher education in the respective
44. The Committee urges the State party to adopt effective measures
to combat domestic violence against women and to promote equal treatment
of women in the field of employment, including in the Government and
in education and health.
45. The Committee requests the State party to ensure the wide dissemination
in Israel of these concluding observations.
46. The Committee reiterates that the additional information requested
in these concluding observations should be submitted in time for the
twenty-third session of the Committee in November-December 2000.