Ex-chief justice Naor: Migrants issue was resolved with UN, but PM caved

In early April 2018, Netanyahu made a sudden and dramatic announcement that after 12 years of debating, an answer had been found to the migrants’ dilemma.

By
September 3, 2019 15:06
2 minute read.
Miriam Naor

Miriam Naor. (photo credit: DROR SITAHKOL)

The African migrant issue could have been solved in April 2018 by a deal which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached with the UN, except that he caved to political pressure and scrapped the deal, former Supreme Court president Miriam Naor said on Tuesday.

Speaking from the Israel Bar Association conference in Tel Aviv, Naor said that the deal which Netanyahu reached with the UN "was a good deal," adding that it was unfortunate that political pressures led him to backtrack from resolving a more-than-decade-long dilemma.

Her comments were part of pushing back against attacks on the Supreme Court for allegedly preventing the Knesset from resolving the African migrant issue.

In early April 2018, Netanyahu made a sudden and dramatic announcement that after 12 years of debating, an answer had been found to the migrants’ dilemma.

Netanyahu said in a televised speech to the nation that of Israel’s 35,000 plus remaining migrants (down from a high of around 60,000), about 16,000 would be sent to Western countries in an orderly manner over five years, while all or most of the other 20,000 or so would get to stay.

The 16,000 figure always raised questions. But the announcement that around 20,000 migrants would finally be distributed into different parts of the country and integrated into society seemed like a major turning point.

It seemed to end the 12-year fight between the government, the migrants, the courts, the UN and human rights groups.

At least for a few hours.

Then-Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett attacked Netanyahu for being weak on the migrants issue. Interior Minister Arye Deri let it be known that he had not been consulted and did not approve of the policy. So as suddenly as he announced the deal, Netanyahu dropped the deal.

The domestic political attacks may not have been the only cause.

Some of the Western countries, whom the UN and human rights groups had promised would receive some of the 16,000 migrants, came out publicly against accepting them.

After years of criticizing Israel, when the government finally seemed ready to take a “fair share” of migrants if others assisted, it seemed there was no shortage of mixed-messaging.

This supported the arguments of Israeli officials who all along had said that many countries in the world were no more willing than Israel to take African migrants permanently.

Naor was also asked about whether the Supreme Court can veto a Basic Law, such as the Jewish-Nation State Law, which has been pending before the court for an extended period. She said that it was a complex question with no simple answer and that she would leave it to the current court to decide.


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