The past five years have proved that Israel does not need to cater to those who have entered the country illegally.
Five years have passed since the collapse of a UN plan that would have struck a tremendous blow to Israel’s security and integrity as a Jewish State and in effect turn it into an immigration state. South Tel Aviv activists put the screws to the government and the plan was shelved. Over the past five years, illegal immigrants have been leaving the country without any “agreement”. Here is the story of what we did to stop the plan and why it was unnecessary to begin with.
Israel’s Illegal Immigration Challenge
Israel has been facing the tremendous challenge of illegal immigration from the African countries of Sudan and Eritrea over the last two decades. After illegally crossing the Sinai border, many of these illegal immigrants settled in the urban area of South Tel-Aviv, making a large swath of Israel’s beloved metropolis into a hotbed of crime and an eyesore of urban blight.
A proposal to address the issue
The growing concern among citizens led to multiple initiatives on how to address the problem. For example, in January of 2018, illegal immigrants were offered $3,500 and a plane ticket on condition that they leave the country within two months. Those who did not accept this proposal would be deported immediately. This decision came under heavy fire from the UN Refugee Agency and from local NGOs working on behalf of the illegals. Due to the immense pressure placed on Israel, this initiative unfortunately never came to fruition.
On April 2, 2018, a day after the deportation plan was supposed to take effect, I was invited to a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office along with Yonatan Jakobowitz from the Israeli Immigration Policy Center and Oved Chugi, a Likud activist.
We were concerned about the meeting as we expected bad news. At the meeting, we were informed that the much awaited deportation plan would not be implemented. However, even worse, we were told that there was a new plan devised by Meir Ben-Shabbat, head of Israel’s National Security Council and Interior Minister, Aryeh Deri in conjunction with the UN Refugee Agency.
The UN’s disastrous plan
The UN plan was an exchange process that was supposed to last five years. It discussed the departure of 16,250 illegals, wherein each illegal immigrant relocating to a Western country, would correspond to another illegal immigrant receiving resident status in Israel, with the expectation that over time, they would receive citizenship. This would inevitably lead to the Supreme Court approving family reunification and thus opening the floodgates of Israel for tens of thousands more Africans. European countries soon denied that such an agreement had ever taken place as they had no intention of committing to provide asylum for tens of thousands of undocumented persons.
For Israel, the corresponding 16,250 illegals slated to receive resident status were to be dispersed in the periphery of the country, far away from the commercial center. Regional Council Heads from areas slated to absorb these illegal immigrants were up in arms. Their reaction was quite reasonable as many cities in Israel’s periphery such as Beer Sheva already struggle with soaring crime rates and they have no intention of exacerbating the current problem.
Furthermore, the UN plan stipulated that 4,130 illegals (if only counting adults) were to remain permanently in South Tel-Aviv. Why? We know from experience that recipients of visas to Western countries need to meet strict conditions like honesty certificates and health certificates, and since there are no services for the unemployed and the mentally ill in the periphery, it doesn’t take much to guess that those denied would remain in South Tel Aviv.
After the initial shock of the government’s willingness to recognize Israel as an immigration state and reward the border thieves with a prize for destroying South Tel-Aviv, we asked tough questions and clarified unequivocally that we refuse to support this disastrous plan. Unfortunately, our opposition seemed futile and we returned home dejected.
Meanwhile, left-wing parties, NGOs which advocate for illegal immigrants, Director of the New Israel Fund Mickey Gitzin, along with the illegals themselves and their sycophants celebrated their victory. Fortunately the celebration was short-lived, as right-wing voters refused to surrender. Social media buzzed, Likud branches clashed, Knesset members pressed, and Netanyahu realized that he had awoken a hornets nest. At ten o’clock at night, he informed me on the phone that he was canceling the agreement. That call was music to my ears.
Why Eritreans are not deported
People tend to think that Eritreans who infiltrated Israel’s border aren’t deported because they face life-threatening danger in their own country. The reason is far more sinister.
Isaias Afwerki, the ruthless Dictator of Eritrea uses illegal immigration as an economic ploy. The illegals continue to pay taxes to their home country and simultaneously send money to their families. In order to not let crime get in the way of his cash cow, he refuses to accept anyone Israel deports, even for serious criminal offenses such as murder and rape. Israel realized that it would need to find someone else willing to accept these criminals. The situation seemed futile.
Israel was once again placed in a surreal situation where it was held accountable by the world to assist and be responsible for a hostile population (This situation mirrors the reaction of the international community towards the Palestinian refugees. Even though they were never our citizens and are governed by terrorists, Israel is held responsible for providing them with water and electricity instead of the PA whom nobody holds responsible ever.)
A hopeful solution
As a result of Afwerki’s denial to take back his citizens who have entered Israel illegally, Israel has spent years looking for countries willing to accept citizens of Eritrea and Sudan long before the proposal of the UN plan. Finally, Rwanda and Uganda – two relatively flourishing countries – agreed. Both have received praise from the UN for their treatment of refugees and asylum seekers. If these countries would take in the Sudanese and Eritreans to affirm their positive reputations as generous nations, it would be a win-win solution.
Therefore we see that the UN plan was actually preceded by a different deportation plan to a third country (Rwanda and Uganda) in early 2018, involving 20,000 single, unemployed males who’s asylum was rejected by Israel. On the surface, this plan seemed to work for everyone. For the illegal immigrants, who had been insisting on the review of asylum applications which were denied, there was now a solution for those who didn’t qualify for Israel’s requirements. It also seemed to satisfy the demands of the left. In practice however, the proposal put the Left under tremendous pressure.
The Left mobilizes
The relocation plan to Rwanda, Africa’s high-tech capital, was met with strong opposition. Similar to what we saw with the judicial reform protests, the left constructed a surreal panic disconnected from reality as well as extreme methods of action taken by protestors.
The residents of South Tel-Aviv were bombarded by articles, petitions, and demonstrations which included an ugly campaign headed by the New Israel Fund that cynically exploited Holocaust Survivors named “project Anne Frank”. This was soon followed by an even more hideous campaign spearheaded by the illegals called “South Tel Aviv Against the Expulsion”.
This campaign excelled in appropriating the identity as well as the feelings of anguish of the residents who suffered under these perpetrators playing victim. It soon became apparent that the EU was also behind the protests as they had just sealed their own deal with Rwanda to take illegals on their way to Europe. As always, there’s a double standard. Rwanda caved under pressure and withdrew from the deal. The deal collapsed and the Left acted as if no such solution was ever proposed as the government attempted a return to the dubious UN plan proposed soon afterwards which also collapsed due to political pressure. Hopefully these conveniently forgotten details will settle the score with the spinmeisters.
Illegal immigrants left on their own
Since the rapid collapse of the UN plan in the Spring of 2018, the left has blamed me for its loss, claiming that I hijacked the plan and sold out South Tel-Aviv for personal interests (as if they truly cared about the neighborhood’s residents). Even barring the fact that they shot down the first plan, the statistics over the past five years show that we were right to fight against the UN plan.
From the beginning of 2018 to the end of 2022 (including the years of COVID-19 and its effects), according to the Israeli Population and Immigration Authority, 10,402 adult illegals and several thousand children (child numbers are kept confidential) left Israel. This means that even without the UN plan, a similar number of illegals left Israel in the last five years! And all of this without Israel having to pay a ransom by giving status to any border thief, or becoming an immigration state.
But that’s only a small part of the story. Ultimately, even if it wasn’t immediately clear, the collapse of the UN plan smashed the left’s hope of integrating illegal immigrants into Israeli society, naturalizing them over time, and opening the country’s gates to large-scale immigration .
In the long run, the fortunate result of scrapping the plan, which today even the NGO’s which aid and abet the illegals admit openly, is that illegals realize that they have no chance of overcoming the resistance to illegal immigration and building a future for themselves and their children in Israel. Now they are crowding around the gates of the Canadian embassy, fighting for any visa they can get. It’s just a matter of time and opportunity as we need to open as many exit channels as possible until they all leave.
And so it happens that the noisy deportation was replaced by the silent deportation, with no cost on our part whatsoever. How convenient!
Shefi Paz is a leading activist from South Tel Aviv who has been leading the fight against illegal immigration for many years