Netanyahu Shouldn’t Try to Limit the High Court’s Powers

On the issue of employing asylum seekers, the prime minister must not seek to erode the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty.

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An African migrant covers his mouth with tape during a protest in front of the U.S. embassy, demanding asylum and work rights from the Israeli government in Tel Aviv, Israel.
An African migrant covers his mouth with tape during a protest in front of the U.S. embassy, demanding asylum and work rights from the Israeli government in Tel Aviv, Israel.Credit: AP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told Israel Radio that after the High Court of Justice struck down an amendment to the law on illegal entry into Israel, he sought a solution that did not involve the High Court. He said he was examining all possibilities — an allusion to limiting the court’s power.

The prime minister should not even be considering this. Netanyahu has never aided attempts to hamper the judicial system and the High Court. Yes, Netanyahu appointed the previous justice minister, Yaakov Neeman, a man who acted against the rule of law and the court’s standing. But Netanyahu thwarted Neeman’s efforts.

The standing of the High Court and the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty are foundations of democracy as well as human and civil rights. Their existence is a vital component of Israel’s response to its critics; Israel must not appear to be a country whose government acts against the High Court’s rulings.

Such action could suggest that the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty has become undependable. The solution to the asylum-seeker issue is the border fence and the understanding with Egypt that Sinai is not a way station for asylum seekers on their way from Africa.

The prime minister said he was surprised by the High Court ruling, which he said was a mistake. There is no avoiding the conclusion that if he had a proper attorney general, a second law on the matter would not have been struck down. The attorney general should have recognized the principles that the court set when it struck down the law the first time.

Even though the amendment was quashed, the government still has room to maneuver if it adheres to the High Court’s distinctions between what is possible under the law and what isn’t. But the state’s initiatives in the Economic Arrangements Bill – a higher tax on businesses that hire asylum seekers than for employers who hire people with a work permit – is a step in the wrong direction.

As MK Michal Rosin (Meretz), chairwoman of the Knesset Foreign Workers Committee, has said, it is justified to tax employers who hire foreign workers and grant them social security benefits, health insurance and pensions, as the law requires for every worker. But making it more difficult to hire people already at the bottom rung of the employment ladder is unacceptable.

The High Court of Justice.Credit: Michal Fattal

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