Goal: 15,000 expats back every year

PM unveils new plan to help Israelis residing abroad return.

netanyahu bikurim 311 (photo credit: GPO)
netanyahu bikurim 311
(photo credit: GPO)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has announced a new plan to help Israelis residing abroad return to Israel.
The plan was unveiled during Sunday's cabinet meeting, where the prime minister also spoke about the Druse-opposed gas pipeline in the Haifa Bay area, and defended the government’s decision to move graves near Ashkelon's Barzilai Medical Center to build a fortified emergency room.
The prime minister explained that there were 750,000 Israelis living abroad, and that the government’s goal was to bring 15,000 of them back to Israel each year. The plan to encourage their return includes tax breaks, education benefits, medical assistance and national insurance benefits.
“This is very important,” he said, “because these people are, first of all, our bone and our flesh. Their absorption and economic integration, upon their return, is usually very quick. Naturally, they have the same national background and they know the language and culture.”
The prime minister said that “a certain turning point is currently taking place. Some would like to come back due to the existence of possibilities since the Israeli economy seems better than others, including those of developed countries.”
Netanyahu himself lived in the United States for much of his childhood, and moved back twice more for academic studies and to serve as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations.
Netanyahu said he welcomes Israelis from abroad, and told those attending the meeting, “For all those who have relatives abroad – I daresay that is almost all of us – contact your relatives and tell them that it is not only right, but worthwhile to return to the country, and bring them back.”

Projects have been 'stuck for years'
Netanyahu also addressed two projects that he described as being “stuck for years.”
“They have to do with two populations that are important and dear to the Israeli public that see themselves as hurt by these decisions," he said. "But we made the decisions and we are carrying them out.”
The first project is related to the Kishon River basin, a highly-polluted area near Haifa.
“Every year, several people die or are stricken with severe respiratory diseases, and we know that part of this problem will be resolved,” Netanyahu said. “Part of the problem may be resolved by laying a gas pipeline, which is also good economically and for the development of the North.”
“We have decided to lay the pipeline, I hope by agreement and understanding with the Druse community,” the prime minister explained, referring to Druse opposition to the plan. “What is most important is the general welfare. We made the decision, and we are carrying it out for the benefit of everyone.”
“The general welfare is also decisive” in the case of Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon, Netanyahu said. “After the Second Lebanon War, it was decided to build a bombproof emergency room adjacent to the hospital. There is an important ultra-Orthodox population that sees itself hurt by this decision, but here as well, after checks, we reached the conclusion that it must be carried out.”
Netanyahu also received a basket of fruit from children from the Nahal Sorek Regional Council area, on the occasion of the upcoming Shavuot holiday.