Netanyahu promises to repatriate illegal African migrants
One of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign messages will be the success his government has had in stemming the flow of illegal African migrants to Israel • Labor Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich challenges Netanyahu to a public debate.
Mati Tuchfeld, Shlomo Cesana and Yehuda Shlezinger
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yisrael Beytenu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman will share a stage in Jerusalem on Tuesday night to officially launch the campaign of their joint Likud-Beytenu list ahead of the Jan. 22 Knesset election.
One of Netanyahu’s campaign messages will be the success that his government has had in stemming the flow of illegal migrants from Africa into Israel.
Former Mossad official Hagai Hadas is in charge of the government’s efforts to return illegal African migrants to their countries of origin. On Monday, Hagai presented Netanyahu with a plan to send tens of thousands of illegal African migrants home.
“We have succeeded in blocking the entry of illegal migrants from Africa to Israel,” Netanyahu said. “After having faced the threat of the entry of hundreds of thousands, this month not one illegal migrant entered Israel’s cities. Just as the blocking was possible, so too repatriation is possible. We will achieve this goal.”
Israel’s success in ending the flow of illegal migrants from Africa was made possible by the construction of a fence along the border with Egypt.
Some 60,000 African migrants are estimated to be in Israel.
Meanwhile, Israel’s political scene continued to boil on Monday. On her Facebook wall, Labor Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich challenged Netanyahu to a public debate.
“The time has come for a public debate on important topics that stand to be decided by the citizens of Israel,” Yachimovich wrote.
The Likud party was quick to remind Yachimovich that she herself refused to participate in a debate during the Labor primary election campaign.
Environment Protection Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) wrote to Yachimovich: “Which exact debate do you want? With which of your parties? When the war between you on who represents the leftist bloc is over, post another status on Facebook and we’ll talk straight.”
Meanwhile, after days of mutual attacks between Netanyahu and the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, conciliatory messages were exchanged between the two sides on Monday. Netanyahu associates contacted Shas’ trio of leaders (Eli Yishai, Aryeh Deri and Ariel Atias) to let them know that the prime minister was not interested in letting the tension continue. Shas officials sent similar messages.
Despite this, Netanyahu does not intend to let Shas keep the housing minister’s portfolio, currently held by Atias, in the next government.
Deputy Finance Minister Yitzhak Cohen (Shas) told Israel Radio that, despite Shas’ relatively weak position in pre-election polls, his party would end up being the third-largest party in the Knesset, after Likud-Yisrael Beytenu and Labor, and ahead of the national religious party Habayit Hayehudi, which is also faring well in the polls.