A unanimous and landmark Supreme Court ruling on Monday struck down a Knesset amendment to a law and declared that detaining African infiltrators for three years without trial violates their human rights.
The effect of the decision is that nearly 2,000 illegal Africans will be able to leave their Negev prison in 90 days and move freely in Israel, most likely to southern Tel Aviv – unless the government decides to deport them.
Within the 90-day period, the government can determine if the illegal immigrants are entitled to be recognized as those seeking asylum or simply left their home countries to seek a better standard of living, in which case they can be sent home.
The amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Law violates what is known is Israel as the Basic Law of Human Dignity and Liberty, a concept that the High Court has exploited for several years to allow it to dictate policies that often are the opposite from what the Knesset had legislated.
The unanimity in the 9-0 ruling, including new Court President Asher Grunis who is viewed as being far away from the left-wing “bleeding heart” camp, underlined the conclusion that the amendment unquestionably violates human rights, despite the problems is poses to the country, as several justices noted.
However, Justice Grunis indicated that a shorter detention period would not be questioned by the court.
Justice Edna Arbel, who has sided dozens of times with “activists” and often against Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, admitted that the decision “will not be easy” for the public to swallow.
She also concede that the decision will be a difficult blow for south Tel Aviv, whose residents have suffered a higher crime rate along with the flood of approximately 50,000 African infiltrators into the relatively poor neighborhood.
“Their cries are in our hearts; their pain is our pain,” she wrote, but Likud Knesset Member and Knesset Interior Committee chairwoman Miri Regev reacted, “There are judges in Jerusalem, but the pain is in south Tel Aviv.” She added, “The High Court has sentenced the residents of south Tel Aviv to living in fear and has given infiltration a green light.”
But she agreed that the Knesset’s solution of simply throwing people into detention facilities for three years, without charges, is not a solution.
Even veteran MK Reuven Rivlin, former Speaker of the Knesset and who has often defended the legislature against High Court intervention, admitted that the Knesset has to be more careful in its legislation.
Minister of Interior Gideon Sa’ar said that Monday’s ruling makes it more difficult for Israel to deal with illegal infiltration.
To a large extent, the government is to blame for the situation. It ignored years of warnings that the daily flood of illegal immigrants was destroying Jewish life in Arad and Dimona, in the northern Negev, where the immigrants descended from further south.
It was only after tens of thousands of infiltrators inundated Tel Aviv that the government began to move, literally locking the gates at the border after the illegals had crossed into the country.
In virtually every democratic country, foreigners are not allowed to enter without valid documents unless they are seeking asylum.
Egypt often solved the problem by simply killing them. Israel simply turned a blind eye until Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in the previous government, ordered that a fence be built along the Egyptian-Israeli border. The result has been a near-zero rate of infiltration. Simultaneously, the government decided to do something with those already in the country and deported thousands who were not validated as seekers of asylum, mainly from Sudan.
Leftists, many of whom back any effort that will reduce the Jewish majority and the influence of the growing religious minority in the country, challenged many attempted deportations.
They conducted a “Save the Children” campaign, playing on emotional heartstrings by protesting against deporting children who, at the country’s expense, already were being educated in Israel.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said after the ruling, “Alongside honoring the decision of the High Court of Justice, I, in cooperation with the Interior Minister and the Attorney General, intend to find ways that are in keeping with the decision and which will allow the implementation of our determined policy which has blocked illegal migration and has already repatriated thousands of illegal migrants.”