Why does Israel treat immigration with such cynicism?

Four ministers in the span of five weeks. That is not the way to run a ministry,

YOAV GALLANT: The Iranians are the most significant and dangerous threat to Israel and the entire Western world.  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
YOAV GALLANT: The Iranians are the most significant and dangerous threat to Israel and the entire Western world.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
We understand that a government coalition is always going to have difficulty garnering widespread support for issues that one party, or one side of the spectrum, is trying to advance – there are always political considerations.
What we don’t understand is what has been happening during the last few weeks with the Aliyah and Integration Ministry and why the State of Israel is treating the issue of immigration to, and absorption in, Israel with such cynicism.
The feeling that the issue is not being treated seriously arose after Yisrael Beytenu decided to pull out of the coalition in November. As a result, Sofa Landver, who had served as minister for Aliyah and Integration, stepped down from her post. In addition to taking upon himself the defense portfolio, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu added to his title Minister for Aliyah and Integration.
Five weeks after Landver’s resignation, during which the ministry for the most part remained stagnant, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin was appointed as her replacement on an interim basis. Netanyahu had considered giving the portfolio to either Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) or Michael Oren (Kulanu) – both deputy ministers – but ultimately decided to give it to Levin for safekeeping. Netanyahu probably already knew then that he was heading to elections and therefore there was no reason to give it to an MK who was not yet a minister.
Then on Monday night came the latest installment in Israel’s immigration saga. Yoav Gallant, until now a member of Kulanu and Israel’s housing and construction minister, stepped down and announced that he is running for a spot on the Likud list. Netanyahu returned the favor and appointed him to be Israel’s new aliyah and integration minister.
Four ministers in the span of five weeks. That is not the way to run a ministry, not to mention one that hits at the core of Israel’s raison d’etre. The establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 saw Jews from around the world flocking to the Jewish state. Communities in North Africa, the Middle East, Europe and elsewhere mobilized to move to the nascent state, seeking refuge in the aftermath of the Holocaust and the shake-up caused by Israel’s establishment.
Israel continued to serve as a safe haven for Jews facing persecution, but also for those searching for a better future for their families. After the Iron Curtain fell in 1990, approximately 1 million Jews came to Israel from Russia, Ukraine, Moldova and other nations emerging from the Soviet Union.
The 1980s saw the Ethiopian Aliyah during which tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews immigrated to Israel.
In recent years, most Jews who move to Israel are not coming because they face persecution or antisemitism. Organizations like Nefesh B’Nefesh have filled a void left by the government to help increase immigration from North America, the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Nevertheless, this does not mean that Israel does not have to work on getting Jews to immigrate. On the contrary; it needs to do more.
Last month, Education Minister Naftali Bennett announced plans to try and increase the number of French Jews who immigrate to Israel. While aliyah from France spiked in 2014 and 2015 following a rise in violent antisemitic attacks and terrorism, it has since dropped.
In addition, there are still thousands of members of the Falash Mura community who remain in Ethiopia, awaiting permission to immigrate to Israel.
The rise of the far-Right in Europe and the recent murder of Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue have caused more and more people to consider their future in their current countries.
Many French Jews, for example, are moving to Canada or the US, but not to Israel. Aliyah is not considered as a realistic option by many due to the language barrier, the red tape and financial difficulties. For that to change, the State of Israel needs to take this issue seriously – and at the very least, have a minister who stays in the job for longer than a week.
Events of the last month send a bad message to Jews around the world. That needs to change now.