The Movement for the Quality of Government in Israel petitioned the High Court of Justice on Tuesday to compel a government committee to publicize its decision-making process concerning entry permits for Israelis trying to return home.
The petition followed reports that permits favor likely supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the upcoming national election.
The NGO said that “there is a suspicion that the decisions were made with preference to people who have special connections in the corridors of power.”
Publicizing the details of the committee’s decisions is “a crucial tool to ensure public accountability,” it wrote.
According to the NGO, the special committee for granting exceptional entry into Israel must publicly justify its decisions to counter allegations of “systematic discrimination” which “gives preference to certain sectors” of the population.
In recent weeks the international airport has been almost completely closed to passenger air traffic to prevent mutations of the coronavirus from infiltrating the country, with only a small number of Israelis being permitted to return.
At the same time, allegations have been broadcast in the media that an exceptionally large proportion of returnees have been haredim and other potential supporters of a government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, raising suspicions that returnees are being selected on the basis of their likely vote in the national election on March 23.
A few thousand voters being allowed into the country from one side of the political spectrum could influence the election outcome if travel permits are denied to those Israelis who might be thought more likely to support anti-Netanyahu candidates.
The petition said that judicial intervention was necessary “in light of the great harm caused to public faith in the relevant authorities.”
In order to avoid further damage, the petition requested an expedited hearing along with an interim order that would compel the government to allow any citizen into the country who wishes to vote in the March 23 election.
In the petition, the Movement said that Israel “is the only country in the world which ... is actively preventing” thousands of citizens “from returning on a daily basis ...”
The NGO pointed out that it had tried and failed to obtain the sought after information about the committee’s decisions in letters to various government authorities on February 14 and 22.
While government officials have denied the accusations, United Torah Judaism MK Yaakov Asher essentially admitted the allegations that ultra-Orthodox returnees were favored, but said if there was any nepotism it was to assist individual constituents who found themselves in dire circumstances, with no political connections or motives.