Supreme Court President, Justice Minister fight over migrants’ ruling

State Comptroller Joseph Shapira warns of Knesset threat to his office.

Pandemonium as Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked speaks at the Israel Bar Association Conference in Tel Aviv, August 28, 2017. (Yonah Jeremy Bob)
Supreme Court President Miriam Naor and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked on Tuesday fired the opening shots in the next stage of the years-long battle between the government and the court over the country’s African migrants policy.
Speaking one after another at an Israel Bar Association conference in Tel Aviv, the two women presented opposing visions of why the Supreme Court struck down a key aspect of the policy on Monday as well as what to expect for the future.
While the ruling upheld the government’s right to deport migrants to third-party African countries, it prohibited Israel from placing illegal migrants in indefinite detention or for any period over 14 months, to try to “convince” them to “self-deport.”
Naor revealed that on October 9, 2016, in a closed-door session, the state’s lawyer informed the court that its arrangement with third-party African countries to receive deported migrants was contingent on those migrants being voluntarily deported.
She said, “These were the representations of the state’s representative and not our decision.”
The court president continued that in light of that condition, there was no way that the state could threaten migrants with indefinite detention and then deport them to the third-party countries, because such a threat plainly meant that the migrants were being coerced.
In other words, Naor was expressing her view that all of the politicians who were attacking the court for blocking indefinite detention of migrants were being hypocritical, since their own deal with African countries was what torpedoed the practice.
Never one to avoid striking back, Shaked said that the issue with the Supreme Court’s ruling on migrants was part of a broader problem.
She said that it is a problem that the legal system does not view “the question of a Jewish majority as even relevant in any case. It is not relevant with infiltrators from Africa who descended on southern Tel Aviv and established a city within a city while pushing aside the local residents, and the response of the Israeli legal system is to strike down (and repeatedly) the law that is designed to cope with this phenomenon.”
The justice minister said that the bigger issue is that Israel’s Jewish character has been cut out of any relevance in the law. “Only a moral and political revolution of equal size to that which we experienced in the 1990s [a reference to the so-called ‘Constitutional Revolution’ led by then-Supreme Court president Aharon Barak] which gives a new platform to the values of Zionism and its centrality” in the law will reverse an over-emphasis on Israel’s secular, democratic character, Shaked said.
Later at the conference, after coming to the Supreme Court’s defense, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira pleaded with Shaked and the legal community to come to his defense.
He said that a faction of the Knesset is planning to attack and reduce his office’s independence.
“In the upcoming Knesset session, the institution of the comptroller is expected to be under attack by legislation whose only purpose is to cut the wings of criticism of the state and to empty them of substance,” said Shapira.