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In Denying Healthcare to Asylum Seekers, Shaked Hits a New Low

Haaretz Editorial
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Israel's Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked
Israel's Interior Minister Ayelet ShakedCredit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Haaretz Editorial

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked believes her nationalist moves will make rightist voters forget that she formed a government together with the left and the Arabs. She thinks they will maintain their faith in her until she graciously agrees to “return home,” join Likud and fight for the party leadership race after Benjamin Netanyahu is gone. This week, for instance, she left even Kahanist Itamar Ben-Gvir and antisocial activist Sheffi Paz in the dust by ordering her representative to object to a Health Ministry plan to arrange health insurance for adult asylum seekers, as Haaretz reported.

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All the people in question are classified as un-deportable foreigners, and some have been in Israel for as much as 15 years. They hold renewable visas from the Interior Ministry, but are deprived of basic social rights like health insurance. Officially, Shaked based her decision on a technicality – the interministerial committee that is supposed to submit its recommendations on this issue was established to discuss extending insurance to minor asylum seekers, not adults. But her real motivation is her war on foreigners, and she isn’t embarrassed to admit it. “The minister opposes any step that would lead to this population settling in Israel,” her office said in a statement, “and has therefore ordered her ministry’s representatives on the committee to oppose this radical move, or any attempt to create a fait accompli contrary to the committee’s original mandate.”

It’s hard to think of anything more contemptible than denying access to medical care, and Shaked couldn’t have used a more vulnerable population to score political points. But what is the problem of survival for a few Sudanese and Eritreans compared to Shaked’s political ambitions?

She shouldn’t be given any breaks. She has a radical, nationalist approach, which stems from the same source as the xenophobia that gives birth to all feelings of racial supremacy. In any other Western democracy, Shaked would be roundly condemned, and her decision labeled a dangerous policy of the racist fringe. There are currently around 30,000 asylum seekers living in Israel. However, the state refuses to recognize them as such, in defiance of the International Refugee Convention it signed, while also inciting against them and calling them “infiltrators.” In other countries, most asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan are recognized as refugees.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz has said in the past that he views health insurance as a basic human right. His current proposal is an extremely important step, and he appears to be determined to pass it as part of the state budget. That is why he ordered the committee to send him its recommendations as soon as possible. Horowitz must not capitulate to Shaked’s pressure. He must protect the weak from the destructive impulses of the strong. And he must not let her continue building her imaginary campaign for Likud’s leadership on the backs of people who live at the bottom of the Israeli food chain.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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