A two-day February 18-19, 2017 conference on "Strengthening Arbitration in Jerusalem" in Al-Bireh, sponsored by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud 'Abbas, was attended by legal experts and experts in the field of arbitration. At its conclusion, the conference issued recommendations for expanding the Palestinian judicial authority to all Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, and for shifting conflict arbitration from the Israeli judicial system to a system that will be in accordance with Palestinian law, particularly for conflicts over land in Jerusalem and for all things concerning economic investment in the city.
Among the notable conferees were 'Abba's legal advisor, Hassan Al-'Awri; Palestinian Bar Association (PBA) head Hussein Shabaneh; Palestinian Jerusalem Affairs Minister and PA Jerusalem District Governor 'Adnan Al-Husayn,; and Mohammad Hadieh, founder and chairmen of ACT for Alternate Dispute Resolution and Studies.
Conferees (Wafa.ps, February 19, 2017)
Conference Goals: Bolstering Palestinian Arbitration Over The Israeli Judicial System For Jerusalem
The conference was aimed at bolstering the status of the Palestinian arbitration apparatus in Jerusalem, as an alternative to the Israeli judicial system, and to bolster the city's economy by adding arbitration clauses to various agreements and contracts among investors. Hassan Shabaneh, who led the conference, said that its goal was to strengthen Jerusalem's Arab identity and to formulate recommendations to strengthen national and legal support for this identity. He added: "The conference was aimed at supporting our people in Jerusalem and expanding Palestinian judicial authority in the holy city."
Hassan Al-'Awri, President 'Abbas' legal advisor, praised "the role of the Palestinian Bar Association in supporting Jerusalem residents and in spotlighting the looming danger to Jerusalem and the occupation's scheming to empty the city of its [Arab] residents."
The PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida reported that the conferees discussed various reasons why Palestinians involved in civil and business disputes should turn to Palestinian arbitration instead of the Israeli judicial system. These reasons included "non-recognition of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem; lack of faith in the justness and objectivity of the existing judicial system, particularly when the conflict is between an individual or company belonging to the occupation [Israel] and a Palestinian individual or company; and the [high] cost of appealing to the occupation's judicial system and the duration of the talks [between the sides], which can last for years." Another reason discussed was Palestinians' "fear[s] of losing their property under the Israeli Absentees' Property Law."
The recommendations released by the conference included "expanding the Palestinian judicial authority to all Palestinian territories including Jerusalem, and issuing regulations and guidelines by official institutions to ensure the implementation of arbitrator rulings."
Additionally, in the area of foreign investment, the conference recommended "supporting investment opportunities in Jerusalem in order to preserve the steadfast position of its residents; creating a clear legal climate for conflict resolution while relying on arbitration; [stressing] the importance of including arbitration clauses in investment contracts; [and] creating a legal and national climate connecting investors and entrepreneurs in order to create a pro-investment atmosphere."
For arbitration on matters of real estate in Jerusalem, the conference recommended "disseminating and instilling a culture of alternative means for resolving real estate conflicts in Jerusalem; increasing awareness of the importance of not appealing to the occupation courts in real estate conflicts; and mandating the inclusion of arbitration clauses in real estate contracts."