Minister Ayelet Shaked addressed the proposed nation-state law, contending that Israel as a Jewish state must administer equal civil but not national rights

By Revital Hovel, HAARETZ

Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked in the Knesset, December 27, 2017.

Justice Minister Shaked in the Knesset last month, calling for death penalty for terrorists.Olivier Fitoussi

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said Monday that if not for the fence erected some years ago on the Egyptian border, “We would be seeing here a kind of creeping conquest from Africa.” The fence effectively stopped asylum-seekers from Sudan and Eritrea from entering the country.

In a speech to the Congress on Judaism and Democracy, Shaked also said, “I think that ‘Judaizing the Galilee’ is not an offensive term. We used to talk like that. In recent years we’ve stopped talking like that. I think it’s legitimate without violating the full rights of the Arab residents of Israel.”

The justice minister made the remarks in a wide-ranging speech on the controversy over the Jewish nation-state bill.

She further said, “There is place to maintain a Jewish majority even at the price of violation of rights.” She added, however, that maintaining a Jewish majority in Israel and acting democratically “must be parallel and one must not outweigh the other.”

Regarding the nation-state bill, Shaked said, “I was disturbed at both the position of the state and the reasoning of the justices. The state did not defend the law for national demographic reasons, it claimed only security reasons.” Shaked told the conference that “the state should say that there is place to maintain the Jewish majority even if it violates rights.”

Shaked said she believed Judaism and democracy are values that can coexist. “From a constitutional point of view there is an advantage to democracy and it must be balanced and the Supreme Court should be given another constitutional tool that will also give power to Judaism.”

The purpose of the nation-state bill, she said, was to prevent rulings interpreting the Entry to Israel Law, or a ruling like the one in the Ka’adan case in 2000 that banned discrimination against an Arab family who wanted to move to a small Jewish community that sought to bar them.

“In our laws there are universal values, rights, already enshrined in a very serious way. But the national and the Jewish values are not enshrined. Over the past 20 years, there has been more of a focus on rulings over universal values and less over the Jewish character of the state. This tool [the nation state bill] is a tool that we want to give the court for the future,” said the justice minister.

In response to a question from the interviewer, TV journalist Dana Weiss, on whether the court could not consider the Jewish character of the state without a nation-state law, she said: “It can, but it’s as if you’d say that without the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty the court won’t care about dignity and human rights. It’s different when you have a constitutional tool.”

Shaked: Court could take ‘equality’ very far

On the coalition’s intent to keep the word “equality” out of the nation-state bill, Shaked said: “Israel is a Jewish state. It isn’t a state of all its nations. That is, equal rights to all citizens but not equal national rights.” Shaked said the word “equality” was very general and the court could take it “very far,” adding, “There are places where the character of the State of Israel as a Jewish state must be maintained and this sometimes comes at the expense of equality.”

Shaked said the nation-state bill did not deal with the issue of who is a Jew. “Everyone has his own Judaism. In the nation-state bill, when it talks about a Jew, it means the nationality.” Shaked then referred to the Ka’adan ruling and said that if such a case were to come up again or “the argument over whether it’s all right for a Jewish community to, by definition, be only Jewish, I want the answer to be ‘yes, it’s all right.’”

The question of the legality of the Family Unification Law, which prevents the unification of families where one of the couple is Palestinian and one is Arab Israeli, was twice decided at the time by the Supreme Court by one vote, with six justices supporting it and five dissenting. The justices gave precedence to security considerations over the importance of the right to maintain a family, in a case that split the Supreme Court.

In Shaked’s speeches, she often quotes the words of the late Justice Mishael Chesin, who was in the majority opinion that approved the law, in which he said Israel needed to awaken from the dream that it was a utopian state.

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