Likud MK warns ‘south Tel Aviv under siege’

Danon slams ‘bleeding hearts,’ trades barbs with other MKs over African migrants at heated Knesset meeting.

Rally against Africans in south Tel Aviv [file] 370 (R) (photo credit: Amir Cohen / Reuters)
Rally against Africans in south Tel Aviv [file] 370 (R)
(photo credit: Amir Cohen / Reuters)
A Knesset Interior Committee meeting descended into a shouting match on Tuesday as MKs competed with one another over who could take a harder line on African migrants.
The meeting on violence by migrants was called by Likud MKs Danny Danon and Miri Regev, who participated in last week’s anti-migrant demonstration in south Tel Aviv.
“People in Tel Aviv are under siege,” Danon said. “They feel like they live in a refugee camp.”
Danon slammed the “bleeding hearts” who ask him how he dares suggest that migrants be deported, saying that forcing them to leave Israel is the real solution.
The Knesset should pass a bill setting a minimum amount of migrants to be deported each month, he added.
“The bleeding hearts who think this is not necessary are the ones bringing crime into south Tel Aviv,” Danon stated.
Regev referred to criticism of her comments last week in which she compared the migrants to cancer.
“South Tel Aviv is burning,” she declared, “and anyone who thinks that saying a few things is what fans the fire has obviously never been there.”
She called on the government’s “chief decision makers” to come up with an emergency plan.
“Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch knows that legal entrance to Israel is only through border crossings. Anyone who comes in from elsewhere can be removed from Israel,” she said. “What are they afraid of? Headlines in the newspaper?”
MK Arieh Bibi (Kadima) explained that African migrants in Israel cannot be called refugees because they passed through Egypt first. Bibi and MK Yulia Shamolov- Berkovich (Kadima) called for migrants to be put in camps near the border.
“The solution is in the government’s hands,” MK Ya’acov Edri (Kadima) said, “but I have a feeling the problem will not be solved until there are refugees in Caesarea and north Tel Aviv.”
A police representative said that 70 officers, as well as Border Police, had been added in south Tel Aviv in an attempt to make the area safer.
Dror Kahalani, a resident of Tel Aviv’s Hatikva neighborhood, broke out in tears while speaking to the committee, saying his family was afraid to leave the house because of violence.
“My life is in the garbage,” Kahalani exclaimed. “You are bad to me! I am in pain! The government abandoned me. You don’t understand my suffering... Don’t I pay taxes? Didn’t I serve in the army? What did I do wrong?” MK Shlomo Molla (Kadima) expressed disgust at the atmosphere of the Knesset meeting.
“I am embarrassed about the content of this discussion. You are saying, ‘Black people, get out of here,’” he said.
Molla told the committee that he had been a refugee in Sudan on his way to Israel and that he had not been allowed to work, adding that 5,000 Ethiopians died in Sudan.
“I won’t let this happen here,” he stated. “We cannot let people starve.”
Danon said that even if the migrants were Swedish he would behave the same way. He told Molla he was doing a disservice to Ethiopian voters.
MK Marina Solodkin (Kadima) expressed support for deportation in some cases.
“Returning someone to their homeland is repatriation,” she explained. “I was repatriated to Israel.”
Molla said he had spoken to the Eritrean ambassador and was told that no Israeli officials had contacted the envoy about taking care of migrants or sending them back to Africa.
MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), who chairs the Knesset Committee on Foreign Workers, termed that information a “scandal” and called for the government to seriously discuss migrants with representatives of their home countries.
Horowitz also accused Likud MKs of inciting against migrants so they could stand out in a future party primary.
“The discussion here is political, not topical,” he complained.
He noted that representatives of human rights organizations, including the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Amnesty International, had boycotted the meeting, saying they were right for not wanting to deal with the shouting.
Regev protested.
“They know very well how to deal with things – by putting photos of Nazis on the Internet!” she exclaimed, referring to doctored pictures of her in a Nazi uniform that had been posted online last week.
According to Danon, NGOs did not come to the meeting because “they do not want to answer our difficult questions.”
Horowitz suggested that Israel bring in fewer foreign workers each year and allow African migrants to work.
“Let the people who are already here make money in an organized, supervised way, so they do not have to steal in order to eat,” he said.
He added that the fence on the Egyptian border will be ineffective as there was no fence near Jordan and migrants would simply change their route into Israel.
Interior Committee chairman Amnon Cohen (Shas) closed the meeting by saying the matter would be discussed until a solution was found and calling for the government to establish its own committee on the issue.
Later Tuesday, MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) presented a joint Labor-Meretz vote of no confidence, saying he had been three years old during pogroms in Iraq when Jews there were called a cancer, much like Regev called migrants.
“Jews cannot speak like that,” he stated. “The Jewish state is a humane state. I know the pain of south Tel Aviv residents. Who is to blame if not the government?”
Ben-Eliezer said that while the government should not naturalize 60,000 African migrants, he did not think the state should subject people to the same suffering he saw as a child.
Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat responded to the MK.
“If a strange person entered the plenum, he would not be able to guess that you were a member of this government for almost two years,” she said, referencing Ben- Eliezer’s time as industry, trade and labor minister from 2009- 2011.
Livnat said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had given instructions to take care of the issue, and added that the fence on the Egyptian border should be ready before the end of the year.