South TA residents protest against African migrants 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
One of the biggest accomplishments of the previous government – and one that has
been woefully under-reported – was our successes at halting the decade-old
phenomenon of increased illegal infiltration into Israel. The implementation of
the amended Prevention of Infiltration Law this month is another step in the
Together with the government plan to deport those
illegal immigrants who are already here, we are providing the citizens of Israel
with a comprehensive blueprint for dealing with the problem of illegal
infiltration. This will lead to a resolution of this matter over the next few
It is important to review how we got to this point. Since 2005,
more than 60,000 sub-Saharan Africans have illegally crossed our southern border
with Egypt. To our friends aboard this may seem like a small number, but this
constituted a real demographic threat for a state of fewer than 8 million
people, and to its Jewish and democratic makeup.
The influx of
undocumented men into our cities did real damage to the social fabric of our
Faced with little prospect for legal employment, and desperate
to send money and help their families back home by any means, these illegals
infiltrators contributed to a significant increase in crime. While our country
was built upon the ethos of caring for those who need it most, it soon became
clear that we cannot provide education, health and other social welfare services
for these undocumented residents.
The previous Likud government decided
to put an end to this matter.
The most important decision we made was to
erect a 230-kilometer- long fence along the southern border, leaving only 11
kilometers near Eilat to be completed at a later point. This state-of-the-art
barrier has all but eliminated illegal crossing of our border with Egypt. In the
first six months of 2013, only 34 people successfully entered Israel illegally
While this is real progress, we realize that there is much
work to be done. Last week, three men were caught trying to cross the Egyptian
border. Upon arrest by the authorities the men related that they tried to come
to Israel because they heard that “there aren’t tough laws against illegal work
This is why the amended law is vital in acting as an
effective deterrence against illegal infiltration. It makes clear to those who
hope to take advantage of the only Western society with a land-bridge to Africa,
that their arrival here does not ensure a new and easy source of income for
their families back home.
We still need to deal with the more than 50,000
illegal immigrants who are already in our urban centers. This is why in November
the cabinet approved a plan to raise the financial incentive for those who leave
Israel willingly to $3,500.
Simultaneously, we significantly increased
the number of government officials and policemen who are enforcing the law and
restoring order in the neighborhoods where there are many illegal
Finally, the government is continuing to look into the
possibility of a “third party” country that will agree to host a large number of
the illegal residents currently in Israel.
These steps, together with the
amended to the law passed by the Knesset, are part of the comprehensive solution
to this problem that I noted above. The Likud government is proud of its track
record on this issue and will work tirelessly until there are no more
infiltrators crossing our borders and the number of illegal residents in our
cities is severely reduced.
I realize that there are many who are uneasy
with some of the steps that the government has taken.
None of us likes to
see the pictures of civilians being rounded up and placed in government
facilities. As a country made up of refugees we are especially sensitive to the
plight of those in danger around the world. This is why on numerous occasions
the State of Israel has allowed those in real danger to find refuge in the
Jewish state. We will continue to do the same in the future.
At the same
time, however, we cannot – and will not – allow our laws to be broken and our
citizens to be put in danger by those who look to take advantage of the goodwill
and the democratic nature of our country.The writer is deputy defense
minister and the author of
Israel: The Will to Prevail.