U.S. Jewish Leaders Laud Israel's New Deal With UN on Asylum Seekers

Reform leader Rabbi Rick Jacobs says fitting that on Passover, 'Israel has shone a light unto the nations of the world'

Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon
Washington
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seen during a news conference at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem April 2, 2018
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seen during a news conference at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem April 2, 2018Credit: \ RONEN ZVULUN/ REUTERS
Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon
Washington

WASHINGTON – Leading Jewish American groups congratulated the Israeli government on Monday for reaching a new agreement on asylum seekers with the UN's refugee agency. According to the new plan, half of the African asylum seekers will be resettled in Western countries while half will eventually receive residency in Israel.

UPDATE: Netanyahu suspends asylum seeker deal with UN after right-wing pushback

To really understand Israel and the Jewish World - subscribe to Haaretz

"We applaud all those who demonstrated and raised their voices to promote a just solution for those seeking asylum in Israel," Rabbi Rick Jacobs, of the Union for Reform Judaism, said.

"How fitting that during the Passover holidays, Israel has shone a light unto the nations of the world for treating those who are escaping harm in their homelands to find sanctuary among the righteous," he added. "May other nations in the world, including the U.S., look righteously upon those among us who seek refuge, safety, and better lives."

Daniel Sokatch, CEO of the New Israel Fund, which played a leading role in the struggle against the original deportation scheme, said that the decision to change has shown that "our power as a civil society – the power of each of us standing up for what is right, and join together to press for change – is stronger than the power of the cruel and fearful few. We have proven that when we refuse to be afraid of one another, when we refuse to be pitted against one another, we can shape a better future for all of us."

"We congratulate every Israeli and every person around the world who held a sign, sent a letter, called an elected representative, and gave of themselves," Sokatch said. "We will celebrate this victory during our festival of liberation."

In January, signatories from American and Israeli organizations such as HIAS, the National Council of Jewish Women, J Street, the New Israel Fund, JSpaceCanada, Truah, Hashomer Hatzair, ARZA, and Ameinu, as well as rabbis from across the denominational spectrum cosigned a letter begging Netanyahu not to deport the asylum seekers.

"As a people who were once refugees, and were once strangers in a strange land, we believe we have a special obligation toward refugees, whatever their religion or race," they wrote.

Speaking at a news conference earlier on Monday, Netanyahu said the plan to deport asylum seekers to "a third country" was scrapped when "it became clear that the third country did not meet the [required] conditions," adding that this country "did not withstand the pressure."

Interior Minister Arye Dery added that following tough negotiations with the UNHCR, Israel had agreed to resettle one asylum seeker in a Western country for every asylum seeker awarded temporary residency status in Israel.

In a statement, the Prime Minister's Office gave these numbers as 16,250 each. Currently more than 39,000 asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea live in Israel, so the fate of the remaining 6,500 is unclear.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.

Subscribe today and save 40%

Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

Trump and Netanyahu at the White House in Washington, in 2020.

Three Years Later, Israelis Find Out What Trump Really Thought of Netanyahu

German soldier.

The Rival Jewish Spies Who Almost Changed the Course of WWII

Rio. Not all Jewish men wear black hats.

What Does a Jew Look Like? The Brits Don't Seem to Know

Galon. “I’m coming to accomplish a specific mission: to increase Meretz’s strength and ensure that the party will not tread water around the electoral threshold. If Meretz will be large enough, it will be the basis for a Jewish-Arab partnership.” Daniel Tchetchik

'I Have No Illusions About Ending the Occupation, but the Government Needs the Left'

Soldiers using warfare devices made by the Israeli defense electronics company Elbit Systems.

Russia-Ukraine War Catapults Israeli Arms Industry to Global Stage

Flame and smoke rise during an Israeli air strike, amid Israel-Gaza fighting, in Gaza City August 6, 2022.

Israel Should End Gaza Operation Now, if It Can