Tamano-Shata threatens to quit over Ukraine refugees to Israel dispute

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked fought with Labor ministers on Israel's policy to accept refugees from Ukraine.

 ALIYAH AND INTEGRATION Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata speaks at a meeting in the Knesset with the Jewish People’s Lobby in November. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
ALIYAH AND INTEGRATION Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata speaks at a meeting in the Knesset with the Jewish People’s Lobby in November.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata threatened to resign on Sunday if a project manager is appointed to handle immigrants from Ukraine instead of her.

Tamano-Shata’s threat came on a day of disputes among cabinet ministers over how to handle the influx of Ukrainian refugees into Israel.

Minister of Diaspora Affairs Nachman Shai sent an urgent letter to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett requesting that Israel immediately remove the demand for a NIS10,000 deposit from refugees arriving in the country.

“Such a demand at this moment is inhuman and immoral,” Shai wrote to the prime minister. “It automatically restricts the entry of refugees to Israel who do not have relatives and do not have the means to meet this demand. I request that you immediately give instructions to cancel the requirement for these deposits for Ukrainian citizens arriving in Israel.”

Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli demanded that people whose status is being reviewed for remaining in Israel be provided with accommodation.

 Labor head Merav Michaeli at faction meetings, December 13, 2021.  (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST) Labor head Merav Michaeli at faction meetings, December 13, 2021. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

“The Israel Airports Authority staff are making huge efforts and providing food and assistance,” she said. “We must provide them with accommodation that was used for corona patients so that all those whose status is being checked receive decent shelter until the process is complete.”

Michaeli called on Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman to find a way to fix the problem.

“The awful sights of those who are waiting for the process to be completed cannot be how the State of Israel looks. We must find an immediate solution.”

But Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked called for tightening restrictions on Ukrainian refugees entering the country.

Speaking at Sunday’s cabinet meeting, she said Israel was the country accepting the most Ukrainian refugees per capita among countries with no shared border and warned that 90% of the 15,000 set to come by the end of the month did not even have one Jewish grandparent. She also said there were already some 26,000 Ukrainian foreign workers in Israel before the war.

“Anyone with a brain understands that we cannot continue with such a pace... and therefore I intend to set a more balanced policy in the days ahead,” she said. “Israel is doing the maximum at the moment. I call on other Western countries to at least do what Israel is doing.”

Shaked differentiated regular refugees from Jewish immigrants. She said Israel was getting ready to absorb 100,000 immigrants from Ukraine and Russia. She visited Ben-Gurion Airport with Population Authority officials on Sunday to review procedures for receiving immigrants at the airport.

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar said Israel should be proud of what it is doing and stop self-flagellating.

“We should be focusing on absorbing Jewish refugees,” he said. “Jews are also refugees. Israel’s job is to absorb those who meet the criteria for aliyah.”