(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
MK Sofa Landver left the Immigration and Absorption Ministry on Monday, following a ceremony in which she relinquished control over the government agency to Likud lawmaker Ze’ev Elkin.
She had served in the position for six years.
Landver, who immigrated from Russia during the height of the Cold War, was teary-eyed as she said her good-byes to ministry employees and wished her replacement good luck. Landver’s party, Yisrael Beytenu, publicly split with the Likud, declining to enter the new coalition.
Taking over at the ministry, which helped welcome him to Israel 25 years ago, was emotional for Elkin, a Ukrainian who arrived following the fall of the Soviet Union and who is now one of the Likud’s more hawkish members.
“It’s the closure of a few circles,” he told ministry staff and reporters. “I feel like I am returning home.”
He added that if you had told him in 1990 that he would one day be immigration minister, “I would not have believed it.”
In a nod to tensions between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yisrael Beytenu party head and former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman, Elkin said that promoting immigration is a “moral responsibility” that transcends politics and a “joint goal for both the coalition and opposition.”
“Even when you are in the opposition, I will come to you when I need help,” he told Landver.
Elkin also cited Israel’s housing crisis, saying that its resolution is critical for the promotion of immigration and added that he also intends to focus on the issue of pensions for middle-aged immigrants.
Both Elkin and Landver stressed the importance of working with the Ethiopian-Israeli community to solve the issues that it faces.
“In the past year we have worked round tables on a comprehensive plan for the integration of Ethiopian immigrants into Israeli society whose recommendations will be submitted to the government soon and hopefully make a significant change,” Landver told her staffers before leaving the building.