While Israel is not indifferent to the human tragedy of refugees from Syria and Africa, it is a small country that cannot throw its doors open to them, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday.
Netanyahu's comments, made at the opening of Sunday's weekly cabinet meeting, came a day after opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) called on the government to absorb refugees from Syria.
“We have conscientiously treated thousands of wounded from the fighting in Syria, and we have helped them rebuild their lives," Netanyahu said. “But Israel is a very small country, with neither demographic or geographic depth, and therefore we must control our borders.”
Netanyahu said it must secure the borders both against illegal immigrants looking for work, as well as from terrorists.
The Prime Minister said that he has been in contact with African and European countries about developing economic packages to help the countries from which the economic refugees are leaving en masse.
In order to secure the country's border, Netanyahu said, work will begin Sunday on building a security barrier, similar to the one that was built from Gaza to Eilat, on the country's eastern border with Jordan.
“In the first phase we will build it from Timna to Eilat, to protect the airport being built there, and we will continue it to the Golan Heights, where a very strong security fence has already been built,” he said.
The goal, Netanyahu said, is to place on Israel's borders fences and obstacles that will make it possible to control its borders. “We will not allow Israel to be flooded with illegal immigrants, work-seekers and terrorist activists,” he said.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked related to the issue on her way into the cabinet meeting, telling reporters that Israel, as a democratic country, cannot take in a massive number of refugees. “The country gives humanitarian aid, but absorbing refugees will be done in Turkey or Jordan, but not in the State of Israel.”
Immigration and Absorption Minister Ze'ev Elkin said that Herzog's proposal, like that of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to absorb refugees in the West Bank
, is an “attempt to bring the 'right of return' through the back door. That is not responsible, and it is forbidden that it should happen.”
During the cabinet meeting, Netanyahu also discussed Thursday's near lynch of five Jews
who lost their way in Hebron while going to pray at the Cave of the Patriarchs, blaming relentless Palestinian incitement against Israelis and Jews for the attack.
Netanyahu said that fortunately “there were individual Palestinians that did the human thing, the obvious thing, and saved them – and we appreciate that. But I call on Abbas to end his incitement and both condemn that action and act against it.”
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