Israel to Halt Advance of Bill Meant to Override Court Rulings on Asylum Seekers

Coalition sources say that ministers will instead promote a broader override bill that has little chance of being passed

File photo: People wait in front of the entrance he Population, Immigration and Border Authority office in Bnei Brak, April 2018.
Moti Milrod

Israeli ministers have decided not to advance a bill that would allow the Knesset to re-legislate clauses of the anti-infiltration law that were struck down by the High Court of Justice, coalition sources said Sunday.

Instead, the government coalition will try to advance a more sweeping override legislation that would allow the Knesset to re-legislate any law that the High Court invalidates. However, the Kulanu party has said it would block any such move and the Haredi parties are also expected to oppose such a bill, making it unlikely to advance. 

Coalition party heads met Sunday to discuss advancing the bill, which in its current form is aimed at facilitating the deportation of asylum seekers. But it became clear that other than Habayit Hayehudi, no party supports the bill in its current form. 

Kulanu chairman Moshe Kahlon, who has said he would support an override bill targeting asylum seekers, was not at the meeting. Other Kulanu members have said recently that they would not support the Habayit Hayehudi sponsored bill, primarily because Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit objects to it. Instead they said they would try to advance legislation that addresses the High Court’s criticism of the particular clauses it struck down.

 The original bill, an amendment to the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty, would allow the Knesset to reenact clauses of the anti-infiltration law struck down by the High Court because they conflicted with the Basic Law, which has constitutional status. The re-legislated provisions would be valid for only four years. The bill was sponsored by Habayit Hayehudi MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli.

During Sunday’s ministerial meeting, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked called on the coalition to promote a more sweeping override clause that would apply to any law,  rather than limiting it to parts of the law regarding asylum seekers. She urged that pressure be applied to Kahlon to win his support for such a move. 

The bill’s explanatory notes quote Kahlon’s remarks to a journalist in which he addressed the passage of an override clause relating to asylum seekers. 

“We all have values, sometimes these values conflict,” he said. “I do not personally see harm being done to the High Court of Justice by an override clause on a specific issue like that of infiltrators. That’s why I intend to make good my commitment and support it.” 

Mendelblit vehemently objected to the bill in a legal opinion issued last week to Shaked. “One must vigorously oppose this bill, which harms the constitutional regime of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state,” he wrote. “Removing all restrictions on undermining the human rights of a specific group, as is proposed now, has far-reaching implications for constitutional law and the democratic regime in Israel, and I strongly oppose it.” 

A number of coalition members oppose the bill because they see it as a Habayit Hayehudi ploy to portray themselves as leading the struggle against asylum seekers. “There’s no reason to help them do that,” said a high-ranking Likud source.