Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked accused the High Court of Justice of degrading Israel’s Jewish character Tuesday, attacking the bench for a ruling against the government’s policy of indefinitely jailing asylum-seekers who refuse deportation.
Speaking at a Tel Aviv conference of the Israel Bar Association, Shaked said that the High Court decision “did not see the preservation of a Jewish majority [in Israel] as a value worth being weighed.”
The High Court ruled Monday that the government could continue with its controversial practice of deporting undocumented migrants to an unnamed third country, but said the government cannot jail those who refuse to go for more than 60 days.
Hours after the ruling, Shaked, from the hard-line Jewish Home party, announced plans to introduce legislation allowing Israel to deport migrants even without their consent.
She told the audience Tuesday that “Zionism will not continue to bend its neck to a system of individual rights.”
The Justice Minister was temporarily interrupted in the middle of her speech by a group of lawyers shouting that Shaked had turned Israel into an “apartheid state.”
Following the disruption, she continued to criticize the High Court, “which seeks to accept a utopian and universal worldview… and ceases to take part in the war for the very existence of the state.”
Later Tuesday, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely echoed Shaked’s sentiment, saying in a speech that “the judicial system has abandoned the values of the Jewish state in favor of the values of the democratic state.”
In their ruling, the judges unanimously rejected a petition by human rights groups against the deportation practice, but stressed that the deportations could only to be carried out with the agreement of the migrants.
The court also ruled that the Israeli authorities had to first ensure that the third country was safe.
“It has not been proven that this (third) country is unsafe. All procedural conditions for the deportation arrangement have been met,” the judges wrote in their ruling.
Expulsion to a third country is largely unprecedented in the Western world. Italy and Australia signed similar agreements with third-party countries — Italy with Libya, and Australia with Malaysia — but both proposals were shot down by local courts. In both cases, courts ruled the bills inconsistent with international law and the 1951 UN convention on refugees — to which Israel is also a party.
However, the High Court also ruled that since the deportations may only be carried out with the agreement of the migrants, refusal to leave Israel cannot be considered uncooperative behavior. And Israel may not imprison migrants who refuse to leave for more than 60 days.
Previously Israel had detained refugees in an open prison for up to 12 months.