MK Amsalem warns of coalition crisis over delayed Ethiopian aliya

Ethiopian Jews waiting to move to Israel caught up in web of red tape.

March 21, 2017 20:23
3 minute read.
Israelis of Ethiopian descent take part in a protest in Jerusalem calling on gov't to bring the rema

Israelis of Ethiopian descent take part in a protest in Jerusalem calling on gov't to bring the remaining members of their community living in Ethiopia, known as Falash Mura to settle in Israel, March 20, 2016. . (photo credit: REUTERS)

MK David Amsalem (Likud) threatened to cause another coalition crisis if no progress is made on the stalled immigration of 9,000 Ethiopian Jews waiting in Addis Ababa and Gondar to Israel.

Speaking at a session held by the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee on Tuesday in conjunction with the Knesset Committee for Aliya and Absorption, Amsalem, chairman of the former, said: “These are people who are sick and dying. It won’t happen under my watch that a child will die because we didn’t bring them for medical treatment.”

“I will start leading steps to hurt your ministries, so that everyone will deal with it,” Amsalem said, warning that if the issue doesn’t advance in the right direction, he will “stop other things.”

“They will come here with or without you,” he told participants of the meeting, adding that he will ensure the necessary attention is given to this issue. “I promise you that if it was another country, they would have been here already a long time ago,” he said.

Amsalem and MK Avraham Neguise (Likud) sparked a mini crisis last year when they refused to vote with the coalition because the government had reneged on its commitment to bring the remaining immigrant applicants waiting in Ethiopia to Israel.

According to a government decision passed in August, the government will bring 9,000 Falash Mura to Israel by the end of 2020, starting with 1,300 Ethiopians by the end of the year.

Neguise, chairman of the Aliya and Absorption Committee, on Tuesday accused the Interior Ministry of making the aliya process purposely difficult by setting demands and conditions that cannot be met.

One of these conditions raised during the meeting was that the Ethiopian Jews provide permits showing that they are permanent residents of the cities they are currently residing in.

Neguise, pointed out, however, that those Ethiopians moved to the cities from their villages in order to make aliya and are not permanent residents of the cities. “They are working in illegal jobs in order to survive,” he added. “And then they are demanded to present identity cards proving that they are permanent residents in the city.”

Amos Arbel of the Population, Immigration and Borders Authority responded that he hadn’t been aware of this stipulation and said he would take care of it.

Neguise also ridiculed a decision to invite the aliya candidates to interviews over the phone, rather than via their synagogue, when most of them do not own phones. “The government decision states that the parents will immigrate together with their children.

In reality, parents immigrated without their children, in contravention to the instructions,” he said.

Only 63 Ethiopian immigrants were brought to Israel in 2016 and many have been waiting for as long as 20 years to emigrate. In some cases, their relatives having already been brought to Israel.

Earlier this month, Neguise visited Gondar and Addis Ababa together with Deputy Knesset Speaker Hilik Bar (Zionist Union), MK Eli Alalouf (Kulanu) and MK Meir Cohen (Yesh Atid).

Alalouf described the conditions of those waiting there for aliya as “intolerable,” echoing previous descriptions of the visit by Bar, who told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday that he had every intention of rallying the opposition to assist in the matter.

“A health system does not exist,” Alalouf said. “It’s depressing... people are begging to be recognized as Jews.”

He also raised a dispute over a building in Addis Ababa – or lack thereof – for Jewish Agency and Interior Ministry officials to work out of. Alalouf said the building was ready, accusing the Interior Ministry of making up excuses.

However, Yehuda Scharf, director of Aliya and Absorption at the Jewish Agency, said two of the buildings mentioned by Alalouf were not appropriate, likening one of the suggested buildings to succot (tabernacles).

Galit Efraim of the Foreign Affairs Ministry said the ministry is committed to this matter and that the contractor had vowed that the buildings would be ready within a month.

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