Falash Mura aliya from Ethiopia should be stopped immediately and Israel should focus on becoming a "real state" rather than a "committee" for the Jewish people, according to Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit. Speaking to The Jerusalem Post earlier this week, he said the immigration of the Falash Mura - people whose Jewish ancestors were forcibly converted to Christianity centuries ago - was a mission that is impossible to finish. "We are creating a hell of a job for ourselves because of political correctness or trying to be nice," Sheetrit said.
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"Who needs them?" he said about the Falash Mura. "They are all Christians. We need to take care of the future of Israel and this [aliya] will never finish."
"I brought 25,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel in one day in Operation Solomon," Sheetrit said, referring to the early 1990s when he worked for the Jewish Agency. "When we brought them, we thought we are bringing all the people in the compound in Addis Ababa - that's it, we closed the door. But since then, all kinds of groups with personal interests and who are making a living off of this, have started working on bringing in more."
In 2003, a cabinet decision allowed the Falash Mura, who had been trickling into Israel since Operation Solomon, to immigrate at a faster rate of 300 per month. Then-prime minister Ariel Sharon backed that decision and even pushed to bring a maximum of 20,000 more immigrants under the Law of Entry.
Jewish Agency officials operating in Addis Ababa believe the quota set by the cabinet will be filled within a year.
Sheetrit said it was time for Israel to become more focused on being a serious state and to stop being the "committee of the Jewish community."
Asked whether this stance would put him in direct conflict with organized US Jewry, which has been actively involved in supporting and funding the immigration of an estimated 4,500 remaining Falash Mura, he responded: "I don't care."
"If they want to take care of them, take them to America," Sheetrit said. "I haven't seen them take even one Ethiopian to America. In the meantime, Israel is the only country to get Ethiopians, and we accept them with open hearts."
He said his stance was not racist, adding: "Try to become a citizen of Switzerland. Will they take you there? You can only dream of it, but does anyone call them racists? No."
Sheetrit said the best solution would be to close the door to mass aliya and to assess each application for citizenship on an individual basis.
"I say, let's give every Jew the possibility to have temporary citizenship in Israel, and then let's check after five years," he said. "Then nobody can come to you with allegations of racism."
The full interview with Sheetrit will appear in Friday's Frontlines.