3 October 2019

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights concluded today the review of the fourth periodic report of Israel on measures taken to implement the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Committee Experts said that the Covenant applied to territories under Israel’s effective control, as established by international jurisprudence. Experts also flagged the potential discriminatory effects of the Israel – Nation State of the Jewish People law, and the impact of the restriction of movement on rights covered by the Covenant.

Committee Experts enquired how Israel, as an occupying power, ensured that the rights of the people living in the occupied Palestinian territories and the Golan Heights were protected. Israel had to refrain from any action that would infringe on their right to development and it also had to foster such development — Israel, in that regard had both positive and negative obligations. If the State of Israel did not have human rights obligations in the occupied Palestinian territories, a territory which it was occupying and over which it exercised effective control, then who did?

Experts asked how the Government would ensure that the Basic Law: Israel – Nation State of the Jewish People would not legitimize discrimination against non-Jewish segments of the population. They requested information on the impact of restrictions on movement imposed on Palestinians’ on the enjoyment of family life, health and cultural and religious affairs.

Aviva Raz Shechter, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said the Covenant was not applicable beyond Israel’s territory. As there was an armed conflict between Hamas and Israel in Gaza, the Gaza Strip was a hostile zone, and this had obvious ramifications which the Committee should heed. Hamas exercised de facto control over Gaza. In 2007, the Israeli High Court of Justice had ruled that Israel’s obligations were limited to allowing and facilitating the entry of humanitarian aid in line with the laws of armed conflict and taking into consideration its rights as a State.

Ms. Raz Shechter stressed that, over the course of one weekend, over 800 rockets had been launched onto Israel from Gaza. Israel was a democratic State, and it was doing its best to provide economic, social and cultural rights to all. Israel had done a lot over the past eight years to improve the situation in that regard. The delegation had expected that the distinguished Committee would have put an emphasis on the economic, social and cultural rights in Israel.

In her concluding remarks, Ms. Raz Shechter thanked members of the Committee. The delegation had answered many of their questions and showcased how Israel was diligently working to fulfil the Covenant. Israel was a democracy facing challenges related to terrorism and instability in the region.

In his concluding remarks, Alsan Abashidze, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Israel, said the questions raised by the Committee were very serious. The dialogue was meant to be constructive to foster improvements on the ground in Israel and in the occupied territories. He expressed hope that it would contribute to improve the situation wherever Israel exercised control.

Renato Zerbini Ribeiro Leão, Committee Chairperson, said it was important for the dialogue to be constructive. The questions were raised in light of the provisions of the Covenant.

The delegation of Israel consisted of representatives of the Permanent Mission of Israel, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development; the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Social Services, the Israel Defence Forces, and the Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will next meet in public this afternoon at 3 p.m. to consider the fourth periodic report of Ecuador (E/C.12/ECU/4).

Report

The Committee has before it the fourth periodic report of Israel (E/C.12/ISR/4).

Presentation of the Report

AVIVA RAZ SHECHTER, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said the report was the product of a broad collaborative effort by many Israeli Government Ministries and bodies, including participation with civil society organizations.

In the legislative area, the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, had adopted many new laws regarding human rights protected by the Convention, such as the Prohibition of Consumption of Prostitution Services Law, the Installation of Cameras for the Protection of Toddlers in Day Care Centres Law, and the Compensation for Termination of Employment Law. The National Insurance Law had been amended to gradually raise the general disability allowance by 2021. On 11 October 2018, Israel had ratified the 2014 Protocol to the International Labour Organization’s Forced Labour Convention of 1930.

In the judicial realm, Israeli courts continued to play a crucial role in the promotion of human rights. A noteworthy example was the landmark decision of December 2018, in which the High Court of Justice dismissed a petition regarding the illegal high recruitment fees that foreign workers were required to pay in order to work in Israel.

Moreover, the serious manner in which the State of Israel considered human rights matters was evident from its choice to establish three new national human rights institutions in recent years, in addition to the existing mechanisms, namely the Children’s and Youth Complaints Commission for Out-of-home Placed Children, the Early Childhood Council, and the Unit for the Coordination of the Fight against Racism

All of Israel’s Government Ministries invested great resources and efforts in promoting labour, social, health, education and other rights for all its citizens and residents. Since the last presentation of Israel before this Committee, many positive developments had been made in order to advance and promote the Arab population, including Druze, Circassian and Bedouin populations. A comprehensive five-year plan addressing the development of the Bedouin population had been approved following extensive work carried out by the Bedouin Authority. It included a budget of 3 billion new Israeli shekels (833.4 million dollars) for the benefit of the Bedouin population.

In May 2018, the Government had adopted a resolution to reduce social and economic gaps and foster the economic development of the eastern neighbourhoods of Jerusalem. This was a comprehensive five-year plan with a total budget of 445 million new Israeli shekels (123.6 million dollars).

Since the last periodic review in November 2011, Israel had continued to face numerous challenges, due to the instability in the region and the constant terror attacks by the Hamas terror organization that had been controlling Gaza since 2007. It was unfortunate that since the unilateral disengagement of Israel from Gaza, another opportunity to build bridges and reach a compromise between Palestinians and Israelis had been missed again. It was no less worrying and aggravating that the Palestinians in Gaza were being used by Hamas as human shields, including children, who were also daily subjected to brainwashing and were educated to hate Israel and Israelis. The hostile relations between the Palestinian Authority (Ramallah) and Hamas in Gaza further deteriorated the daily situation of the Palestinians in Gaza.

The Israelis living along the fence with Gaza had been suffering for the last 12 years from the hostilities and terror attacks by Hamas, an ongoing situation of armed conflict that caused misery to the residents on both sides of the fence. Just recently a barrage of 800 rockets had been launched from Gaza during one weekend and if it were not for the Iron Dome anti-missile defence system that Israel had developed to intercept those rockets, there would have been disastrous consequences.

Israel had gone through general elections two weeks ago and was in the midst of efforts to form a new government. Israel had spared no effort to cooperate with the Committee and the delegation hoped that this session would provide the opportunity to hold a candid and constructive dialogue.

First Round of Questions by Committee Experts

ALSAN ABASHIDZE, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Israel, while noting the diversity and the high level of the delegation, said it was unfortunate that it did not include a representative of the Ministry of Education.

He said there was a chain in links in the common core document that hindered the Committee’s access to information and slowed down its work. On statistics, the Committee had asked for data on the Bedouins that was disaggregated by sex, and so on and so forth. That information was still lacking; there were no concrete figures.

The Israeli budget allocated shrinking amounts to address social needs. Why was public expenditure on social benefits decreasing from one year to the other?

On civil society organizations, did the Government have the same approach for all of them? He asked how many non-governmental organizations had taken part in the preparation of the report on their own volition. Did the Government heed or disregard the information provided by non-governmental organizations operating in the occupied territories?

Mr. Abashidze noted that there were various governmental entities working on human rights. Did one of them play a leading role in that regard? If so, what was its mandate and authority?

He asked for information about the status of the Covenant in the State party. Could judicial bodies use the Covenant to adjudicate claims?

How did the State party, as an occupying power, ensure that the rights of the people living in the occupied Palestinian territories and the Golan Heights were protected? Israel had to refrain from any action that would infringe on their right to development and it also had to foster such development — Israel, in that regard had both a positive and a negative obligation.

He asked what steps had been taken to implement equality and non-discrimination as enshrined in the State party’s laws.

He requested information on the status of the Arabic language. There were fears that the focus on the Hebrew language and Jewish culture would negatively impact on about 20 per cent of the population.

Turning to refugees and asylum seekers, there were a very large number of people who were denied access to various services because they were asylum seekers. What was being done to remedy that situation?

On Bedouins, he requested information on their situation, notably on the consultations held in relation to development projects affecting them.

First Round of Responses by the Delegation

AVIVA RAZ SHECHTER, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said the Covenant was not applicable beyond Israel’s territory. There was a profound connection between human rights and armed conflict. However, in the current state of international law, norms related to these two areas were codified in different documents and remained distinct. The Covenant was territorially bound; it did not apply to Gaza and the West Bank. Notwithstanding this position, the delegation would provide answers related to some of the Committee’s questions regarding these territories.

The delegation explained that the Government collected precise data related to the socioeconomic situation of Bedouins. The Government considered the Bedouins to be equal to all other citizens. A policy would be put in place to respond to their needs, notably those related to land rights, and allow Bedouins who wished to develop their lands voluntarily to do so.

In 2018, the Knesset adopted by a majority a law, the Basic Law: Israel – Nation State of the Jewish People, which enshrined the character of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. It was an addition to other basic laws that enshrined other aspects of Israel, a Jewish democratic State as per its Declaration of Independence. The law was mostly declarative in nature.

The official language of Israel was Hebrew. Arabic was granted a special status. The Government’s website for ministries was being translated, for instance. It was important to emphasize that this Basic Law: Israel – Nation State of the Jewish People did not derogate from human rights laws. There had been 52 petitions filed before the Supreme Court. The Government would provide a response to them before the court in November.

Israel had received a large number of asylum applications. Efforts were being made to shorten the processing time. Since 2009, Israel had received 17,000 applications. About 1,400 persons had received a humanitarian residency permit and 60 had been received as refugees.

On the budget, the Government’s data did not indicate a decline in public expenditure on social services but rather that expenses in that area had been stable.

On civil society consultations, the Government maintained a rapport with academia and organized panel discussions on human rights issues and the reports submitted to treaty bodies.

The Government did not seek to obtain information on the West Bank, as the Government deemed it fell outside the scope of the Covenant for the reasons stated earlier. None of the human rights entities currently existing in Israel met to criteria set out in the Paris Principles. But talks on the creation of a national human rights institution were being held. The delegation recalled that following the recent elections, negotiations on the formation of a government were currently ongoing.

The Covenant could not be applied as such by courts, but it had been evoked in numerous petitions brought before Israeli courts.

Follow-up Questions by Committee Experts and Responses by the Delegation

An Expert said that it was a widely applied and recognized principle that a State’s human rights obligations also applied to territories under its effective control. Jurisprudence had established that international humanitarian law and human rights law could be applied concurrently. The Covenant did not stipulate that the scope of its application was limited to the territory of the State parties. She encouraged the State party to reflect on the compatibility of its position with international law principles.

On the same topic, another Expert said the answer of the delegation had been disappointing in relation to international law. According to articles 55 and 56 of the United Nations Charter, Member States had a responsibility to promote and protect human rights everywhere. If the State of Israel did not have human rights obligations in the occupied Palestinian territories, territories which it was occupying and over which it was exercised effective control, then who did?

Another Expert said that the answer regarding the Basic Law: Israel – Nation State of the Jewish People did not provide any more information that was not already outlined in the response to the list of issues. How would the Government ensure that this law would not legitimize discrimination against non-Jewish segments of the population?

In response, the delegation said that the Palestinian Authority had its own responsibilities in the West Bank. Israel did not have any effective control over that area.

On the Basic Law: Israel – Nation State of the Jewish People, the delegation could not elaborate further because there were a number of petitions that were pending, and the Government’s official response to them was currently being drafted. It did not derogate from any other human rights laws.

Israel maintained that the Covenant did not apply to areas that were not subject to its sovereign territory and jurisdiction. This position was based on the well-established distinction between human rights and humanitarian law under international law.

Israel was still helping Palestinians in the Gaza Strip meet their daily needs, notably as regards energy.

Second Round of Questions by Committee Experts

DZIDEK KEDZIA, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Israel, requested updated statistics on employment rates between 2001 and 2015. With the exception of Jewish women, this increase had been flattened in recent statistical years or decreased. This also applied to Arab women. Could the delegation inform the Committee of measures taken, if any, to counter this slowdown in the increase of the employment rate?

He asked the delegation to comment on the ways in which the Arab population with disabilities participated in the labour market, as well as on the results of the Five-Year Inter-Ministerial Programme for Raising Employment in Minority Populations.

Bedouins suffered from very high levels of poverty. What was the State party’s assessment of the impact of measures taken to address this situation?

The Rapporteur asked if the State party had any plans to address the situation of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers who faced a restrictive employment framework following a decision by the High Court.

He requested information on the Work from Home Pilot Programme that had begun in 2016. Could the delegation tell the Committee whether the level of minimum wage guaranteed all the beneficiaries a decent standard of living and what measures had been implemented to ensure that all workers, including Arab Israelis and migrant workers, were paid at least the minimum wage?

He asked the delegation to provide information on the right to strike; reported violations of the labour rights of inhabitants of the Golan Heights of Syrian origin; the segments of the population excluded from the social security system; and the remedial measures taken or planned to address the fact that 21 per cent of Israel’s elderly persons lived below the poverty line.

Second Round of Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said that the Government promoted human capital and sought to foster employment in a constantly changing labour market while upholding workers’ rights. There were challenges that had yet to be overcome.

The labour market’s inclusiveness was relatively low in comparison to levels in other Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development Member States. The unemployment rate was largely due to people who changed jobs. Only half of the Ultraorthodox men were employed. This segment of the population, as well as Arab women, were paid significantly less than the rest of the population.

More than 120,000 people had participated in governmental employment programmes that sought to equip them with tools to foster their re-integration in the labour market. Women, notably minority women, faced barriers impeding employment. The Government was deploying efforts to tackle this issue, which had been successful, notably as regarded Arab women.

The delegation assured that the right to strike was fully protected in Israel. Employers could not sanction employees for taking part in legitimate strikes. While there was a gender pay gap, it was getting smaller. The Diversity, the Pay Gap Calculator and the Equal Value Programme were amongst measures taken by the Government to raise awareness on this issue and encourage policymakers to tackle it. Policies and programmes had also been implemented to promote the labour market’s integration of ultraorthodox Jews, including ultraorthodox Jewish women.

Israeli courts received complaints and handed down sanctions against employers that failed to comply with labour laws. Fines as high as 80,000 dollars had been imposed. The delegation notably cited a case in which an employer had been forced by courts to compensate Palestinian workers who had not been paid the minimum wage.

The unemployment rate amongst Bedouins had dropped from 34 per cent to 11 per cent over the course of five years. For the past four years, a programme had been put in place to foster Bedouins’ access through education by providing them with transportation to educational institutions.

The Family First programme on poverty had been implemented in 103 localities. It operated through Israeli clusters, including Bedouin and ultraorthodox authorities. It was based on a poverty-conscious social work paradigm and provided a basis for result-oriented interventions. It had led to a 58 per cent income increase in targeted households. Almost 50 per cent of the participants in this programme were Arab.

Third Round of Questions by Committee Experts

SANDRA LIEBENBERG, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Israel, flagged obstacles to the enjoyment family life created by restrictions on movement between Gaza and the West Bank. Restrictions on movement also prevented Palestinians who were from the West Bank and who were married to Israeli or East Jerusalem residents from enjoying their right to family life. Could the delegation comment on the severe impact of current laws on Palestinian women who had residency rights in East Jerusalem that had been granted as a result of their husbands’ status?

She requested updated statistical data on homelessness in Israel and on people deemed to be inadequately housed by the Government.

The Rapporteur asked the delegation to explain how the State party reconciled the regulations, orders and practices of demolition of housing — which amounted to a form of collective punishment of entire families – with article 11 of the Covenant, as interpreted in General Comments number 4 and 7.

Israeli authorities facilitated settlements with detailed planning preferences. Was the State party contemplating measures to amend planning laws and policies to avoid the current discriminatory impact?

The Committee had been told by non-governmental organizations that the Government continued to pursue its goal of relocating Bedouins from what were termed “unrecognized villages” and continued to implement its policy of house demolitions. Why was a strategy not pursued of regularizing and upgrading the current “unrecognized” villages than one of eviction, demolition and relocation?

On the right to health, she asked about measures taken to assess the adequacy of the public healthcare budget in light of population increases; the geographic disparities in the provision of health care services, notably in the peripheral areas where mostly Bedouins and Arab-Israelis were living; and the urgent health situation in Gaza.

She noted that the criteria to be issued an exit permit from the Gaza Strip on medical grounds was restricted to lifesaving medical treatment. What steps could be taken to review the entire exit permit regulations in line with article 12 of the Covenant?

Third Round of Replies by the Delegation

AVIVA RAZ SHECHTER, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said there was an armed conflict between Hamas and Israel in Gaza. The Gaza Strip was therefore a hostile zone, and this had obvious ramifications which the Committee should keep in mind.

Hamas exercised de facto control over Gaza. In 2007, the Israeli High Court of Justice had confirmed that the Government had no obligation towards the population of the Gaza Strip. It had ruled that Israel’s obligations were limited to allowing and facilitating the entry of humanitarian aid in line with the laws of armed conflict and taking into consideration its rights as a State.

Ms. Raz Shechter stressed that, over the course of one weekend, over 800 rockets had been launched onto Israel from Gaza. Israel was a democratic State, and it was doing its best to provide economic, social and cultural rights to all. Israel had done a lot over the past eight years to improve the situation in that regard. The delegation had expected that the distinguished Committee would have put an emphasis on the economic, social and cultural rights in Israel.

The delegation rejected the accusation that Israel had sprayed chemicals in Gaza. Spraying was only done on Israeli soil, with herbicides approved by the relevant governmental authorities. Precautions were taken to minimize their effect.

Turning to the health situation in Gaza, the delegation remarked that, as a general rule, foreigners did not have a right to enter a foreign State. The Government of Israel nevertheless took a calculated risk by letting in people from Gaza that were seeking health treatment, under certain conditions and on the basis of a transparent policy which was available online. Terrorist organizations were exploiting this humanitarian channel. A cancer patient who had been admitted for treatment in Israel was used by a grandson to funnel money to terrorist organizations. There were many more similar cases. It must be emphasized that the responsibility for the health situation in Gaza lay with those who controlled the area.

In light of the security situation and the violent takeover by Hamas, restrictions on the entry of goods had been put in place. The policy was above and beyond Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law. Indeed, all goods could enter Gaza freely, except those that may pose a threat to the security of Israel. Since the cessation of hostilities with Gaza, Israel had allowed the passage of tons of material for the construction of neighbourhoods, schools, stadiums and the completion of desalination plants, inter alia. Delays in reconstruction predominantly resulted from the actions by Hamas and conflicts between terrorist groups in Ramallah and Gaza.

Regrettably, for several years, the Palestinian side had refused to discuss water and sewage related projects. And yet, Israel had met all its obligations in that regard, and had also promoted international projects in the West Bank to improve water and sewage facilities in the area.

Israel did not use house demolitions for reprisal. House demolitions were carefully carried out to thwart terrorism, after a review by the relevant authorities, including the Ministry of Justice. Decisions to carry out house demolitions could be appealed: several such appeals had resulted in reduced or partial demolitions. Furthermore, Israeli courts had reaffirmed the legality of demolitions, in light of activities threatening the security of Israel. Demolitions served as an effective deterrent in that regard.

On the situation of Bedouins, the delegation said there had been a significant change of approach. The Government considered them as citizens with equal rights; increased budgets were allocated to narrow gaps that persisted in that regard. Over half of the Bedouins were living in an unregulated manner. In the last three years, the planning of development had grown almost tenfold. The development of neighbourhoods covered areas such as sewage, parks, etc. The standards used were the same as in the entire State of Israel; the Government acted in accordance with the planning and construction laws that were applied throughout Israel.

It had been difficult to obtain documents and information from the Ministry of Health in Ramallah that were required to provide healthcare services to Palestinian children.

The Government drew a distinction between homeless people and street dwellers. The Government took a proactive role to treat street dwellers applying a harm reduction approach. It took them off the streets, addressed their mental and physical needs, and had their situation recognized by all relevant State bodies. They received social security income, housing, and psychosocial support.

The possibility of family reunification remained available. The law set out several requirements for permits to be granted. A Humanitarian Committee had been established to examine specific cases, such as that of the Palestinian women who had residency rights in East Jerusalem that had been granted as a result of their husbands’ status.

Follow-up Questions by Committee Experts and Responses by the Delegation

Experts commented, and asked follow-up questions, on native Syrians’ labour rights; foreign caregivers in Israel; Palestinian rights in the occupied territories; the welfare State model; the use of Arabic following the adoption of the Basic Law; disparities in access to health, taking into account that the child mortality rate stood at 2 per 1,000 births for the Jewish population, 6 per 1,000 births for the Arab population and 11 per 1,000 births for the Bedouins; and foreigner workers’ pensions.

On the infant mortality rate, the delegation said that the Government had to find better solutions to address this issue, such as carrying out better genetic surveys, ensuring better prenatal follow-ups and, more broadly, providing better health care services. While it would not be possible to close the gap completely, the Government would do everything to reach that aim.

Fourth Round of Questions By Committee Experts

PREETI SARAN, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Israel, asked why there was such a high and disproportionate rate of dropouts among Bedouin students in comparison to the general public, and such large gaps in the educational achievements between Arab students in comparison to Jewish students.

There was a shortage of school facilities in Area C of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Over a third of Palestinian communities did not have primary schools. Children were forced to travel long distances, and attend schools in shacks and temporary structures, without heating or air conditioning. What steps were being taken to improve the predicament of such children, especially where they had to travel long distances and where fear of harassment had led to high school dropout rates.

Around 48 Palestinian schools across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, had pending “stop work” or demolition orders due to lack of building permits, which reportedly were extremely difficult to obtain from Israeli authorities. Another 44 schools were at risk of demolition. What steps were being taken to rectify this?

Several government-run schools in Gaza had been damaged and the ban in 2014 on students from Gaza accessing education in the West Bank also had adversely affected their right to education. What steps were being taken to rectify this?

Why was the Arab language downgraded from official language to special status language? The annual budget for the High Institute for the Arabic Language was just 1.45 million new Israeli shekels or 402,800 dollars for the year 2019. It appeared to be a modest figure given that the Arabic population of Israel, was about 1.5 million people or around 20 per cent of the total population. Could this be explained?

What measures were being taken to ensure that Palestinians living in the occupied Palestinian territories could exercise their right to take part in cultural and religious life, without restrictions other than those that were strictly proportionate to security considerations and were non-discriminatory in their application, in accordance with international humanitarian law? Residents of Gaza who sought to travel to holy sites in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, remain banned from doing so under Israel’s current closure policy. Reportedly, restrictions on the freedom of movement continued to pose challenges for other communities to access historical and religious sites, including the al Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the Nativity Church, and the Bilal Rabah Mosque/Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem, and the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron.

Fourth Round of Replies by the Delegation

The delegation explained that during the next five years, the Government would build 1,000 classrooms. A public transportation scheme had been set up in 2012, and it now incorporated over 8,000 buses transiting on school routes in all localities.

Israel had a deep commitment to the rule of law, and every instance of violence against the Palestinians in the West Bank was dealt with accordingly. There had been a decrease in ideological based offences and an increase in the number of investigations in such cases. Every case of violence was addressed very seriously.

Approximately $ 3.9 million had been invested by the Government to provide additional childcare support in Tel Aviv. Two additional day care centres would be created in the coming months providing services to an additional 350 infants and toddlers. In additional to the new day care centres, the Government allocated 1.4 million dollars to programmes, such as after school activities, for migrant children and their parents.

In the last three years, 13 day care centres had been closed because they did not meet standards set by the Government. There were another 14 day care centres that had been asked to make changes to be allowed to remain open. There were now fewer unrecognized day care centres: their total number had gone down from 80 to 40, approximately.

Turning to education in the West Bank, the delegation explained that the Palestinian Authority had its own education system, and was responsible for education in the area. Israel supported education in the West Bank. It notably allowed the entrance of non-governmental organizations in the West Bank to support the provision of education services.

The Palestinian Authority continuously encouraged illegal constructions, such as schools. Such illegal constructions were dealt with in line with Israel’s policies outlined earlier. There were terrorist organizations that used schools for military purposes, such as launching rockets. The Israeli made every effort to avoid attacking such facilities, but in some cases it had been unavoidable.

On the right to cultural and religious life, the delegation said that, in recent years, Israel had gone to great lengths to facilitate the access of Palestinians to religious sites in Israel, when the security situation permitted it.

There had been a steady increase in the number of schools in both the Hebrew and Arabic school systems. There were 681 Arab schools in Israel as of September 2019.

Regarding the status of the Arabic language, the delegation reiterated that Basic Law did not derogate in any manner any human rights protected under other basic laws. The Government was translating its websites into Arabic and supporting Arabic language schools. While the delegation was taking the Committee’s questions seriously, it was too early for it to provide answers, as the Basic Law had been challenged before the courts and the judgement was pending.

Concluding Remarks

AVIVA RAZ SHECHTER, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations Office at Geneva, thanked members of the Committee. The delegation had answered many of their questions and showcased how Israel was diligently working to fulfil the provisions of the Covenant. Israel was a democracy facing challenges related to terrorism and instability in the region.

ALSAN ABASHIDZE, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Israel, said the questions raised by the Committee were very serious. The dialogue was meant to be constructive to foster improvements on the ground in Israel and in the occupied territories. He expressed hope that it would contribute to improve the situation wherever Israel exercised control.

RENATO ZERBINI RIBEIRO LEÃO, Committee Chairperson, said it was important for the dialogue to be constructive. The questions were raised in light of the Covenant.

For use of the information media; not an official record

CESCR19.13E