Israel has begun construction on a wall along its eastern border with Jordan in order to keep out any illegal immigrants and terrorists wanting to infiltrate the country. The wall will eventually encompass Israel’s whole border, as far as possible.
In a statement made at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting, and later posted to his official Facebook account, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “Israel is not indifferent to the human tragedy of the refugees from Syria and Africa. We have already devotedly cared for approximately 1,000 wounded people from the fighting in Syria and we have helped them to rehabilitate their lives”:
We are speaking with African heads of state, and with the Italian Prime Minister recently and with other European leaders, about multi-lateral aid packages for the countries of origin in Africa – in agriculture, economics and security – in order to deal with the problem at its source.
But, Israel is a small country, a very small country, that lacks demographic and geographic depth; therefore, we must control our borders, against both illegal migrants and terrorism. This is what we have done on our border with Sinai; we blocked illegal migration from there.
Today, we are starting to build a fence on our eastern border. In the first stage, we will build it from Timna to Eilat in order to protect the airport being built there, and we will continue the fence up to the Golan Heights, where we have already built a strong security fence.
We are not waiting. To the extent that it is possible we will encompass Israel’s borders with a security fence and barriers that will allow us to control our borders. We will not allow Israel to be flooded with illegal migrants and terrorists.
The plan is not without its detractors. Condemning Netanyahu for his statement, opposition leader Isaac Herzog said on Facebook: “You’ve forgotten what it is to be Jewish. Refugees. Pursued. The prime minister of the Jewish state doesn’t close his heart nor his borders when people are escaping their pursuers, with their babies in their hands.”
Israel already has fences in place demarking the borders between itself and Lebanon to the north, and Egypt to the south west. The 245 mile fence along the Egyptian border was originally built to keep out illegal migrants from Africa, but in 2011, following some insurgent activity in the area, Israel upgraded it to include cameras, radar, and motion detectors.
The migrant crisis has provoked heated debate in Israel, a country where persecution and refugee status is part of so many families’ histories.
Lambasting Herzog for his comments, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz took to his Facebook page to write: “What a lack of political wisdom and a lack of national responsibility,” before suggesting that if Herzog wanted Syrians to come, he should accommodate them in his own house.
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin of Likud also spoke out against the notion of Israel taking in people from Syria, an enemy country, the Times of Israel has reported. “I suggest we stop with this custom of trying to find favor all the time,” he told Army Radio. “We must not take in people from an enemy state who could act against us from within Israel.”
Meanwhile, Yesh Atid, chairman Yair Lapid, said that Israel should not jeopardise her ability to block Palestinian entry to Israel by letting in other non-Jews. “There is a reason that all the leftist organizations support the refugee issue, because then they will say, ‘Here you are allowing in people who are not Jews’,” he asserted, continuing: “Israel has made a great effort not to be involved in the events in Syria, so now we want to open a back door that will involve us in that war?”
Radio presenter Gabi Gazit slammed Lapid, whose father escaped the Nazis by fleeing to pre-state Palestine, saying: “Your father and my father asked themselves for years how and why the world was silent when Hitler tried to kill the Jewish people, and our fathers died before they were able to see the new refugees at the Budapest train station.
“Yes, the very same station where your father and my father tried 70 years to catch a train to freedom, and only three years later there was the world war. Their train made it out of Budapest and took them to the Land of Israel.”