Right-wing MKs on Monday denounced the High Court of Justice’s decision to overturn a law allowing illegal migrants to be held without trial for up to three years.
However, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni called for dealing with the problem by constitutional means.
“We must review the court’s decision and find solutions for the illegal migration problem that are constitutional. I will oppose any attempt to take advantage of this ruling to weaken the High Court,” Livni said.
“The High Court must prevent attempts to use inappropriate means to weaken the rule of law,” she added. “We can criticize the court’s decisions, but we cannot disparage them in a way that harms its special and necessary status in a democracy.”
Her comments came after MKs in Likud Beytenu, Bayit Yehudi and Shas criticized the court’s ruling, with some saying it violated the separation of government powers.
Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar, whose ministry deals with the issue of migrants, said that the ruling “harms Israel’s ability to deal with illegal migration into its territory.”
Sa’ar said the government would study the decision and draw conclusions about the best way to take care of Israeli citizens’ best interests, which may include passing a new law.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said that MKs must consider the pain of residents of south Tel Aviv, Eilat and other places with large migrant populations.
“When the winter session begins [on October 14], the Knesset must work intensively to find a solution for these citizens that will pass the High Court’s test,” Edelstein stated.
Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel said it was “unfortunate that the High Court won’t let the State of Israel fight illegal migration of hundreds of thousands of work migrants into Israel.”
The country, he continued, “is fighting to protect its Jewish identity and to maintain a demographic majority [of Jewish citizens].
The High Court decision harms the government’s efforts.
We will continue trying to find creative ways to get the infiltrators out of Israel and keep Israel Jewish and democratic.”
MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud Beytenu), meanwhile, lamented the harm the ruling caused to checks and balances between branches of government.
“It is not good for the High Court to get involved in legislation, but the Knesset must be careful in its decisions,” he said.
“I warned [when the Infiltration Law passed] that it may require the courts to get involved, and suggested different arrangements that are constitutional but still meet the law’s goals. Unfortunately my advice wasn’t taken, and once again the separation of powers is harmed.”
Similarly, Bayit Yehudi faction chairwoman Ayelet Shaked said the court had dealt a death blow to Israeli democracy and its checks and balances by canceling laws that the Knesset, an elected body, had passed.
“The High Court canceled the wall of defense the Knesset established and once again opened the country’s borders,” Shaked said. “The law saved Israel from a demographic disaster, and canceling it will bring waves of work migrants from Africa who will harm the weaker sectors in Israel.”
She added that “we will use all legal means we can to restrain the court and strengthen the Knesset, including changes in Basic Laws.”
Knesset Interior Committee chairwoman Miri Regev (Likud Beytenu) said that while she respected the court, its decision was detached from reality and her heart was with the residents of south Tel Aviv.
“The High Court decreed that residents of south Tel Aviv must live in fear, and declared infiltration kosher,” she stated.
Former interior minister MK Eli Yishai (Shas) warned that canceling the law would lead to a non- Jewish majority in Israel.
“Every attempt to remove our defenses [against illegal migration] can harm our main goal – to keep Israel a Jewish state,” he said. “I plan to promote a new bill that will replace the existing one and ensure Israel’s survival as the Jewish nation-state.”
Tel Aviv City Councilman and anti-African-migrant activist Shlomo Masslawi called the decision “a disgrace of international proportions,” adding that it “will encourage thousands of additional infiltrators to make their way to south Tel Aviv. They will come not only by going around the fence and through tunnels, but also by way of Jordan. In short, the security of our residents has been trampled once again.”
However, opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich said the High Court’s decision “set a clear and precise moral guideline,” because the now-canceled law “contradicted democracy... and basic human rights.”
At the same time, she said, the government must be sensitive to south Tel Aviv residents’ distress.
MK Nachman Shai (Labor) echoed Yacimovich’s sentiments, saying the court’s decision “brought the color back to Israel’s cheeks by requiring Israel to respect human rights.”
Shai called for preventing illegal migration while honoring the rights of those who enter the country.
“The Justice Ministry should examine how something like this snuck into our law books,” he added.
Fellow Labor MK Moshe Mizrahi, who wrote the party’s policy on illegal migration, said the court’s decision was “appropriate, expected and a major blow to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s view on how to deal with illegal migrants.”
He added, “I hope the government comes to its senses and passes my bill to arrange refugees’ and work migrants’ status.”