Minister Threatens to Quit Coalition Unless Ethiopians Are Airlifted to Israel

Pnina Tamano-Shata warns she 'cannot continue to be part of the government at a time when Ethiopian Jewry is being slaughtered'

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Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata, who is threatening the coalition over the airlift of Ethiopian Jews to Israel.
Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata, who is threatening the coalition over the airlift of Ethiopian Jews to Israel.Credit: Marc Israel Sellem

The Aliyah and Integration Minister is threatening to leave the government over her demands to bring people awaiting verification of their Jewish heritage from war-torn Ethiopia to Israel.

Pnina Tamano-Shata, from Benny Gantz’s Kahol Lavan party, is “warning that she cannot continue to be part of the government at a time when Ethiopian Jewry is being slaughtered,” according to political sources.

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However, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked opposes such a step, saying most of the new Ethiopian immigrants who have arrived in Israel recently are not Jewish, and that their lives are not in real danger. Her doubts come in light of an investigation conducted by the Population and Immigration Authority about the arrival of 61 Ethiopian migrants this year, which cast “major doubts” over both their heritage and the risks they faced.

Sources close to Aliyah and Integration Minister Tamano-Shata told Army Radio that she “cannot continue working as normal” if the situation in Ethiopia continues to deteriorate.

A meeting on the matter is scheduled for Monday with representatives from the National Security Council, Shaked and Tamano-Shata, as well as Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai.

Ethiopian citizens at an immigration center in Beit Alfa, Israel, in August.

The investigation conducted by the Population and Immigration Authority in the Interior Ministry, whose findings were revealed in Haaretz on Sunday, found that most of the Ethiopians “didn’t come from the conflict zone as claimed, and their lives weren’t at risk at all.”

The authority then began looking into who drafted the list of 61 immigrants. It discovered that 53 of them came at the request of and based on information provided by a single Israeli identified in the document as Saraka Siom – including “his Christian ex-wife, who came to Israel with her Christian husband and the three children they had together,” as well as “two boys who claimed to be his sons.” Several others “will work or have worked in Siom’s businesses.”

The report concluded that most of those who arrived would have had “no chance of moving to Israel” had they told the truth. A senior immigration authority official said that so far, only four of the 61 have managed to prove their Jewish roots.

As a result, the National Security Council has become more adamantly opposed to bringing more Ethiopians to Israel, adding that a "threat exists of non-Jews exploiting the economic situation in Israel" and that the move could prove an "unnecessary, dangerous and precedent-setting demographic mistake.”

Senior officials in Israel estimate another similar Aliyah operation will not take place at this stage, though the decision could be reconsidered if the civil war deteriorates further.

In recent days, the civil war in Ethiopia has spread to all regions of the country. In light of the escalation of the fighting, the Foreign Ministry has decided to repatriate some family members of Israeli diplomats in Ethiopia, following similar decisions by other countries, including the United States.

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