Interior Minister Eli Yishai is preparing for a battle over the State of Israel's
Jewish character. Speaking at a Knesset discussion on the country's immigration, infiltration and refugee policy, Yishai vowed to "do everything in terms of legislation in order to maintain Israel's Jewish majority."
Opposition Chairwoman Tzipi Livni,
on the other hand, expressed her willingness to cooperate with the government on this matter, if the ministers adopt a bill being advanced by her Kadima
During the discussion, held under the banner "Strategy for an immigration policy in Israel,' Minister Yishai noted that "the infiltration problem bears ramifications and constitutes a security-related, economic and social problem.
"Israel is the only democratic country in the region, and I estimate that more than one million people have tried, are trying and will try to infiltrate from third world countries. In order to maintain the Jewish majority, Israel must defend itself."
The minister clarified that "even if we are talking about a gradual process of losing the Jewish majority, we must not – as the only state of Jews in the world – reach this situation."
According to Yishai, his perception is supported by most ministers and Knesset members, "and the question will be how to do it and which clauses to include or remove." He promised to launch a parliamentary battle over the issues which would not be approved.
Livni and Yishai. Don't want disagreements (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
"I wish we had a constitution, and then everything would be much simpler," MK Livni noted in response. Addressing a bill being promoted by MK Meir Sheetrit (Kadima), which seeks to regulate the immigration to Israel through clear criteria, she added, "I believe that a balanced bill could prevent an unnecessary parliamentary battle."
"A nation-state is not a bad word, and the State of Israel is the Jewish people's state. Unfortunately, Israel is being de-legitimized as the Jewish nation-state, both on the outside and on the inside," Livni clarified.
"In terms of what we are talking about, it's as important to say that Israel is a democratic country. I don't see a contradiction between democracy and maintaining Israel as the Jewish people's state."
According to Livni, the phenomenon of illegal residents stems greatly from the lack of proper enforcement and legislation.
"Israel is tempting in terms of labor and economic options," she stressed. "In terms of work migrants we must provide a more humane solution. The immigration permits must be given in quotas in accordance with the State's needs. As for the issue of refugees, by the power of our bitter experience as the Jewish people, the State of Israel must act humanely.
"The infiltrators who cross the Egypt
border are a different case," MK Livni added. "A small number of them are real refugees, but the majority is work infiltrators. I believe that building a fence and a physical obstacle is crucial, and the budget must be found to do this. I reiterate that there is a bill balancing between democracy and maintaining the State's identity, and I call on the government to adopt it."
Following Livni's remarks, Yishai stressed his desire to avoid disagreements. "We have one goal, which is shared by the opposition as well, and that is to maintain the Jewish majority in this country," he said.