Editorial |

Israel's Coalition Against Refugees

Haaretz Editorial
Refugees wait for a transportation train after crossing the Ukrainian border into Poland, at the Medyka border crossing, southeastern Poland on March 10, 2022.
Refugees wait for a transportation train after crossing the Ukrainian border into Poland, at the Medyka border crossing, southeastern Poland on March 10, 2022. Credit: Louisa GOULIAMAKI / AFP
Haaretz Editorial

For all the justified public fury at Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked over the reception for refugees from Ukraine, one cannot ignore, either, the silence and incompetence of the center-left bloc in the coalition.

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Israel is being tight-fisted toward the wave of refugees. The plan outlined by the interior minister did not meet any minimal moral standard, certainly not for Israel, with its lofty pretensions and the history of many of its citizens. The prime minister, who praised the interior minister for her plan, is a full accomplice to this disgrace. But at the same time, centrist and left-wing members of this government are immersing themselves in an embarrassing silence and inaction. Yesh Atid, the largest party in the governing coalition, as well as Labor and Meretz, should have been bearing the torch for opening the country’s gates and accepting as many refugees as possible. But what do you know – it’s the moderate and supposedly enlightened part of the government that is doing nothing to change its policy.

Yet again we have proof that in matters of policy and principles, there is hardly any difference between the extreme rightists of the coalition and the center-leftists. The ideological differences between Shaked, Merav Michaeli and Nitzan Horowitz are much smaller than one might imagine, often non-existent. Otherwise, how can one explain that the moderates of this government are not using their power to change its policy on such a matter of principle as the opening of the state’s gates to people fleeing for their lives from a war zone?

Tweeting does not absolve one of responsibility. When Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy, from Yesh Atid, rejects a request by Ukraine’s president to speak to MKs, he tarnishes and shames Israel’s legislature. When Labor MK Michaeli makes do with a demand to revoke the requirement for refugees to make a financial deposit ensuring their departure, she puts her party and the Israeli left to shame. When Meretz chairman Horowitz remains silent, he puts his party to shame.

“Empathy is not enough,” said Michaeli, correctly. It would behoove her and her colleagues to act towards the implementation of what was proposed on Thursday by Damtew Dessalegne, the representative in Israel of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees: Grant them social benefits, the right to work and health insurance. Israel must let refugees in, and allow them to live in dignity within its borders.

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

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