What would you think if I told you of a country that, in the middle of its financial and cultural center, allowed the existence of an autonomous district in which the laws of the state do not apply? What would you say if I informed you that more than 25,000 residents of this urban area – the same population size as an average city in this country – are illegal residents of the State of Israel?

There are over 80,000 illegal infiltrators in Israel. In 2011, that number increased by 17,000, and since the beginning of 2012 more than 8,000 people have crossed our borders illegally. We are at a critical crossroads with a strategic demographic threat developing within our borders that may upend our country’s very character as a Jewish and democratic state. It is nonsensical that such large numbers of illegal infiltrators from Africa are settling permanently in our country and so little is being done to rectify this problem. This is especially highlighted when taking into account that the crime rate among the infiltrators is almost double the rate of that in the general population. The desperately necessary solution is a three-pronged program to end this dangerous phenomenon: stop, arrest and deport.

We have begun to make progress on the first element of this plan. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, an historic project is being completed along our southern border. Millions of shekels have been budgeted to build a (hopefully) impregnable fence between Egypt and Israel.

Together with an intensified effort by the IDF and the Border Police, we may soon see a shifting of the tide in terms of the numbers of infiltrators who are able to cross into Israel undetected.

Regarding the second element, arrest, we are also beginning to see more action from the government. Whenever infiltrators succeed in eluding capture and make it safely into Israeli territory, they must be immediately detained. Understanding the strain that a large increase in arrests will exert on our prison services, the government has approved the building of an advanced detention center. Once completed, excuses about lack of space and resources needed to house those who break our laws by sneaking into our country will no longer be valid.

While we are slowing the flow of illegal infiltrators and detaining those who do gain entry, we must simultaneously begin to seriously implement the third part of this strategy. All illegal infiltrators in the State of Israel must be deported immediately. Some will go home to Africa, while others may be sent to Eastern Europe once repatriation and compensation agreements are reached. But in the end, they all must go. This may sound like a complicated process, but through increased, stricter enforcement, along with smart new legislation when needed, we can quickly simplify the process. Most importantly, it must be carried out properly and swiftly.

Some on the extreme left cry out that it is unfair to demand that we send these people home. While opponents may be trying to score cheap political points against the Likud government, we must not get bogged down by responding to their simplistic and often blatantly false accusations. We do not have the luxury of burying our heads in the sand and ignoring the burgeoning threat to our society that is making headlines on an almost daily basis.

The Likud government has begun to take important steps to implement this plan, but there is much to do and not much time left. Every day that goes by in which infiltrators are not stopped, arrested and deported merely encourages an increase in the number of Africans who attempt to reach Israel. We must make clear to ourselves and to the world that we will no longer tolerate this attack on our sovereignty.

The State of Israel has never been known to shy away from strategic threats that endanger the existence of the Jewish homeland. Just in the past few months, our leaders have made it abundantly clear that we are willing to do whatever it takes to stop such a threat a half continent away. There is no reason that the issue of illegal infiltrators should be treated any more lightly. We must all unite and increase the public pressure on our government to ensure that it acts immediately on all necessary fronts to end this threat once and for all.

The writer is deputy speaker of the Knesset and chairman of World Likud. He is also the founder and chairman of “Deportation Now!” – an extra-parliamentary group formed to stop the tide of illegal infiltrators into Israel.

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