Israel will embrace Jewish immigrants escaping Ukraine, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Monday.
“The citizens of Israel are facing a significant challenge,” Bennett said. “We are at the start of a wave of Aliyah” – Jewish immigration – “many Jews want to reach us, in Israel, from the warzone in Europe.”
“You belong with us and the people of Israel is embracing you,” he added, at a memorial ceremony for Israeli pioneer Joseph Trumpeldor, at the site of his death in battle at Tel Hai.
The prime minister called on citizens “to give our brothers and sisters the warmest welcome” and said Israel must ensure that the new immigrants have homes, employment, schools and more.
Israel has prepared to absorb 100,000 Ukrainians under the Law of Return, which allows anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent to immigrate to Israel.
Bennett remarked on Israel’s new policy for refugees that do not qualify to immigrate under the Law of Return, which Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked announced on Sunday, permitting anyone with a relative in Israel to temporarily seek refuge in the country. A separate quota will be established for Ukrainian refugees who do not have a relative in Israel.
“We are allowing them to stay with friends and family as long as they need, until the war passes,” Bennett said. “We are partners in the major humanitarian effort.”
The prime minister added that Israel has sent planes full of humanitarian aid to Ukraine’s borders and established refugee aid centers.
Bennett also briefly referred to his and others’ diplomatic efforts to mediate between Russia and Ukraine’s leaders, without getting into details.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's Chief of Staff Andriy Yermak tweeted that the change in policy was a result of talks between Kyiv and Jerusalem, including between Yermak and National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata.
Also Monday, the Ukrainian Embassy in Israel wrote on Facebook about a petition to the Supreme Court to allow all Ukrainian nationals to seek refuge in Israel.
The court set a hearing for next Sunday, and the embassy said that "the great urgency with which the Supreme Court acted confirms the importance of [a] balanced solution that should be taken...We hope that [the] Israeli government will reach a comprehensive decision that will open the country for the Ukrainians feeling from the hostilities of war."
The lawsuit was submitted when Israel was limiting the number of Ukrainian refugees that do not qualify to immigrate under the Law of Return to 25,000. That policy also faced opposition within the cabinet.
Kyiv and Jerusalem had a visa-free agreement before Russia attacked Ukraine.