Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky praised Israel’s High Court of Justice on Sunday for abolishing restrictions against the entry of Ukrainian citizens with no Jewish connection, restrictions that had been established by Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked.
“I commend the decision of the Supreme Court of the State of Israel, which obliges the government of Israel to abolish any additional restrictions on the entry of citizens of Ukraine,” he wrote in a tweet.
"The rule of law and respect for human rights is exactly what distinguishes a true, developed democracy."Ukraines President Volodymyr Zelensky
The High Court approved the request to eliminate Shaked’s 5,000-person quota during the current Russia-Ukraine wartime period, saying that the bilateral three-month open visitation deal between Jerusalem and Kyiv did not draw a distinction between wartime and peacetime.
The judges emphasized that 4,409 Ukrainian citizens who had entered Israel since the outbreak of the war had left the country and that if the government wanted to set a quota that contradicted that bilateral deal, the whole government needed to vote in favor.
Shaked blasted the High Court for what she said was overstepping its authority.
She implied it was disingenuous for the court to suggest that the government or the Knesset take action in the middle of election season. In addition, she said that her idea had worked, by stemming what would have been an overflow of refugees in the early weeks of the war.
At this point, she said the quota was likely no longer necessary, even if it was also unnecessary for the High Court to intervene.
In fact, the ruling was foreshadowed by a hearing on March 20 in which the justices blasted the state.
The panel of High Court President Esther Hayut, Justice Uzi Vogelman and Justice Yitzhak Amit explained that they had been notified that the Knesset would weigh in on the issue already on March 23 and that even the quota itself was due to expire on March 27.
During the hearing, the court pressed the state, saying that it was unclear if Shaked had the authority to create such a quota without a decision by the full government.
The hearing came about through a petition by attorney Tomer Warsaw at the behest of the Ukrainian government, which was angered by the quota.
At the same time, the quota itself had already undergone changes as limits were eliminated regarding how many Ukrainians with a familial Jewish connection to Israel could come.
Still, the state argued that Shaked’s quota was constitutional because the relevant law and bilateral deal – that allow Ukrainians into Israel for at least three months without any special limitations – were only relevant to peacetime tourists, not to wartime when such persons might try to permanently resettle in Israel.
Warsaw said that all of this was beside the point since only 7,000-8,000 Ukrainians came into Israel between late February and March, falling far short of the droves that Shaked said needed to be held off to avoid endangering Israel’s Jewish demography.
State lawyer Omri Epstein said that the situation was very dynamic and that the state needed the quota system to keep an eye on the numbers in case they did start to get out of control.
But Hayut questioned him pointedly, saying, “Ideally, there would be no quota. And at first there was no quota until March 10. What happened on March 10 that caused you to need to set a quota? Was there data which was the basis of [the predictions of] a flood [of refugees]?”
As Hayut questioned him further, it turned out that only around 170 of 1,000 new Ukrainians coming into the country per day had no Jewish connection.
Still, Epstein said that there should be no complaint yet because the numbers are still around 1,700 people below the quota.
Hayut did not accept this, saying that if Shaked lacked authority to set a quota in the first place, then anyone she was rejecting had been illegally turned away.