Editorial |

With the Ukrainian Refugees, Israel Isn't Sure What the Rule of Law Means

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Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked at Ben-Gurion Airport on Sunday.
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked at Ben-Gurion Airport on Sunday.Credit: Moti Milrod

The Interior Ministry’s harshly insensitive approach toward the Ukrainian refugees when they started arriving in Israel has already damaged the country and its image. But instead of learning its lesson, the ministry hasn’t changed its behavior. When a court seeks to set minimal boundaries to curb the abuse, the ministry ignores the law.

District Court Judge Michal Agmon-Gonen instructed the ministry to allow non-Jewish Ukrainian refugees 48 hours to access all their rights before being deported. This is a basic human directive, the little that can be expected of a state, any state. So it’s not surprising that Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, who is hard-hearted toward non-Jewish foreigners, considers it despicable.

In fact, Agmon-Gonen complained to Supreme Court President Esther Hayut that Shaked tried to unduly pressure her to change her rulings on Ukrainian refugees. A denial was issued in Shaked’s name, but the Interior Ministry found a way around Agmon-Gonen.

Via bureaucratic sleight of hand, the appeals were moved from the Tel Aviv District Court to its Jerusalem counterpart. The denials of the refugees’ requests were sent for the signature of the director general of the Population and Immigration Authority instead of more junior officials who had previously signed them. The power to hear appeals against the director general is in the hands of the Jerusalem District Court, as reported by Haaretz’s Chen Maanit on Monday.

Such moves show that the Interior Ministry doesn’t know what the rule of law is. The only way to address a judicial decision that a government authority opposes is an appeal; the approach to Agmon-Gonen appears an example of improper influence. Shaked’s denial isn’t enough; the approaches to Agmon-Gonen must be looked into.

Not only must all these approaches be looked into, a party in judicial proceedings can’t choose the most convenient judge, even when it does so in a way that tries to outsmart the system. In a state of laws, Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara would have blocked the Interior Ministry’s move, which is designed to circumvent the judge by moving the appeals to another court. And she would have ordered an inquiry into the conduct of everyone involved.

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