Israel is not indifferent to the human tragedy of the refugee crisis but is small and cannot simply throw open its doors to the flood, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.
“We have conscientiously treated thousands of wounded from the fighting in Syria, and we have helped them rebuild their lives,” Netanyahu said in response to recriminations from opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union), made in remarks yesterday.
“But Israel is a very small country, with neither demographic or geographic depth, and therefore we must control our borders.”
The prime minister pointed out that Israel must secure its borders not only against illegal immigrants searching for work, but also against terrorists hoping to slaughter Israelis. Instead, he said that he has spoken with African and European nations about developing aid programs for the countries from which the refugees are originating.
To protect Israel’s borders, he said, construction crews will begin to build a security barrier – as other nations have done for similar reasons around the world – similar to that built along the eastern border with Jordan from Gaza to Eilat.
“In the first phase we will build it from Timna to Eilat, to protect the airport being built there, and we will continue it to the Golan Heights, where a very strong security fence has already been built,” he said. “We will not allow Israel to be flooded with illegal immigrants, work-seekers and terrorist activists,” he said.
Immigration and Absorption Minister Ze’ev Elkin commented that the proposals by Herzog and Abbas to absorb refugees is an attempt to “bring the ‘right of return’ through the back door. That is not responsible and it absolutely cannot be allowed to happen.” Elkin said Herzog’s proposal is similar to that of Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who has requested to absorb refugees in Judea and Samaria.