PM: Egypt fence nearly complete, deportations to start

Netanyahu slams fiery comments made by MKs at Tel Aviv protest against illegal infiltrators, says issue will be resolved "in a responsible manner"; Rivlin: Government must find solution for migrants, residents.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu 311  (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Thursday afternoon that the border fence with Egypt will be completed in a number of months, and that Israel would soon begin deporting the illegal immigrants.
Netanyahu's comments came after people gathered across the country Wednesday night to protest the growing influx of African infiltrators in Israel. Over 1,000 people attended the demonstration in Tel Aviv’s Hatikva neighborhood, holding signs calling for the deportation of the migrants, one of which read “Bibi [Netanyahu] decide – Sudan or Israel.” Similar demonstrations were held in Eilat, Bnei Brak, Sderot, Ashdod and Ashkelon.
Police arrested a total of 17 people during the protest for rioting, attempted assault, possession of knives and looting store fronts.
Commenting on fiery speeches made by members of Knesset at the protest, Netanyahu said that "there is no room for the types of comments and actions that we saw last night. I say these things to the general public and to the residents of south Tel Aviv whose pain we understand: We will solve this problem in a responsible manner."
Earlier Thursday, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said that the government must find a solution for the migrant issue, in a meeting with US ambassador Dan Shapiro.
"There is no doubt that the State of Israel has a serious problem connected to infiltrators and refuge-seekers, and the government must find a solution," Rivlin said.
According to Rivlin, there is constant tension between the need to protect national and social interests, and Jewish sentiment and morals, which seek to protect the weak.
The Knesset Speaker expressed disapproval of the atmosphere in Wednesday night's protest in Tel Aviv, saying that demonstrations are valid, but they cannot turn into incitement.
"We cannot use the kind of language anti-Semites use about us," he stated. "We are a nation that suffered from incitement and harassment, so we must be especially sensitive and moral."
The real problem, Rivlin added, is not refugees and infiltrators; rather it is the lack of a clear government policy.
The Knesset Speaker also criticized MK Miri Regev (Likud), who said in the plenum on Wednesday that "infiltrators are spreading like a cancer," suggesting that it would have been better if she had demanded from the government to find solutions to the problem.
"The rage of residents and business-owners in south Tel Aviv is understandable, but when the mob is angry, leaders must rein in the rage and find solutions, instead of fanning the flames," Rivlin said.
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said Thursday that while the growing number of African migrants in south Tel Aviv is a "terrible social threat," public figures must be responsible and refrain from words which might incite violence.
"What we saw yesterday can get worse tomorrow, we all must take responsibility, there is a problem and we must deal with it," Aharonovitch said at a conference in Tel Aviv on Thursday.
The public security minister said that some 700 migrants were infiltrating Israel from Sinai each week. He added that a smuggling network, earning its handlers thousands of dollars was responsible for bringing the migrants from Sudan and Eritrea to Israel.
Aharonovitch partially blamed the large number of infiltrators on the fact that a Border Patrol unit on the Egypt border had been removed. He added that the police's OZ Unit, responsible for handling the migrants, was not doing their job effectively.
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said Thursday that if the government allows African migrants to stay in Tel Aviv, than they should be allowed to work or they will turn to crime.
Speaking in an interview with Israel Radio, Huldai called on the government to "decide, either isolate the foreigners from the rest of the population or allow them to earn their living."
Huldai said that close to 15 percent of the population of Tel Aviv is made up of foreign migrants and he has been warning the government of a potential problem for years.
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.