The Knesset Law, Constitution and Justice Committee voted four to one on Tuesday to form a special new subcommittee on aliyah and integration from Ukraine and Russia to oversee the government's handling of the Ukraine refugee crisis.
The subcommittee was formed after the opposition refused repeated requests from Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy to enable the formation of the Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee, despite the opposition’s ongoing boycott of Knesset committees. That committee has not been formed and has not met since December 2020, because it is set to be chaired by an MK from the opposition.
“At such a fateful time for hundreds of thousands of people eligible to enter Israel under the Law of Return and for so many Jewish communities, the Knesset must perform its oversight role,” said Law Committee chairman Gilad Kariv (Labor).
The debate over the formation of the subcommittee went on for hours because opposition MKs objected. United Torah Judaism MK Uri Maklev called it a dark day for democracy, and Religious Zionist Party MK Simcha Rothman accused Levy of “crying crocodile tears” over the Ukrainian refugees. Levy responded that he was disappointed the opposition did not rise to the occasion when “our brothers are crying for help in such a heartfelt manner.”
Kariv said his committee could form the subcommittee because the Law Committee oversees the Law of Return. However, he said if a formal Immigration Committee would be formed, the subcommittee would no longer be necessary.
Yamina MK Yomtob Kalfon, who is himself an immigrant, will chair the subcommittee. He said it needed to be formed because “saving lives defers politics.”
The formation of the subcommittee was praised by organizations that help immigrants to Israel, including former MK Dov Lipman, who heads the Yad L’Olim organization.
“From the moment the new government was formed, I have been pushing for a formal aliyah committee,” Lipman said. “We at Yad L’Olim have a long list of legislative agenda items which will now have a committee to serve as a base for changes and improvements. I want to thank MK Kalfon for being the leading MK pushing for this and Levy for making this bold decision.”