To write something good about Benjamin Netanyahu these days borders on suicidal. But what can one do when the prime minister deserves a word of praise for his success in stemming the flow of migrant workers from Africa to Israel?
It’s hard to believe, but after the flood of workers had stabilized at some 2,000 per month in the first half of the year, a mere 268 migrants arrived in this country in July. And all of them − yes, all − were arrested and sent to the Saharonim detention facility. Not one of them reached Tel Aviv, Eilat, Arad or Ashdod, and that is clearly an achievement.
The tide was stemmed thanks to several unpopular steps taken by the government. First, it stepped up the pace of construction of the fence along the border with Egypt: The fence is now already 230 kilometers long, and it will be completed by March 2013. In addition, the Knesset passed a law that makes it possible to detain infiltrators in tent cities for up to three years. There they receive food and health care, but they cannot go out to find a job and earn money. And that is the point: The moment they understand in Eritrea and Sudan that it is impossible to earn a living here, the migration will stop.
In fact, Netanyahu should have begun dealing with the problem back in 2009, but better late than never. It is better to have 60,000 infiltrators than 600,000. Because it has to be understood that Israel is the only developed country in the world that has a land border with Africa. It is not necessary to take a plane or a boat to get here.
Therefore, if harsh measures had not been taken, the rate of migration to Israel would have skyrocketed, to the point that it would have changed the face of the country completely. After all, in some African countries, gross domestic product stands at $600 per year. Here, it is $30,000 − 50 times higher! In one week, it is possible for Africans to earn a year’s wages by working here.
The migration from Africa began in 2005, but back then, the pace was slow, so it was tolerable. But it suddenly shot up in 2010, and became a hot topic when residents of south Tel Aviv started demonstrating against the government for abandoning them.
They were confronted by social activists and members of human rights organizations, who believe that every resident of Africa has the right to enter Israel, and that the state must supply them all with work permits, health care and education. They don’t care too much if a worker from Sudan takes the place of an Israeli worker, who will then be unemployed. After all, these are just uninfluential manual laborers.
They also don’t care that the state’s resources are limited. In their view, the state is a bottomless pit with an unlimited budget, and it is possible to feed, house, and provide medical care for all the residents of Africa. Instead of two states for two peoples, we should set up two states for three peoples here.
When the government began accelerating construction of the fence on the Sinai border, the “social” organizations demonstrated against it. But the climax occurred this week, when it turned out that Israel Defense Forces soldiers have penetrated a little way into Sinai with the aim of preventing migrants from reaching the border. They stop them there and hand them over to the Egyptian forces.
The human rights organizations immediately raised a ruckus and charged that Israel was violating international law by acting in this way. In other words, we are forbidden to do anything − not to build a fence, not to stop the infiltrators, not to hand them over to the Egyptian authorities. We should simply invite them in and take care of all their needs. If that is the case, why don’t we send planes to Eritrea and Sudan and invite them to take a trip to Ben-Gurion Airport, with everything included?
We are not alone in the struggle against migrant workers. The European Union has also begun adopting more stringent policies recently. Inter alia, it’s happening in Greece, Britain, Holland and Denmark. In France, to cite one example, the government is dismantling the gypsies’ camps and putting them on planes back to Romania. And that is being done by a Socialist president, Francois Hollande. Australia is stopping ships with migrant workers in mid-ocean and deporting them to far-off islands. In Greece, migrants are locked up in camps for a protracted period.
But here in Israel, anyone who defends the nature of the country and its citizens is Public Enemy Number One.
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