In an effort to pander to the voters in the Ethiopian community, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to bring to Israel 8,000 Ethiopians of Jewish descent who have been waiting to be allowed in, and 400 of them within the next few weeks.
Of the hundreds promised, only 43 will arrive next week. They will arrive onboard a scheduled flight from Addis Ababa to Ben-Gurion airport whose passengers will also include Likud ministers and members of Knesset, including MK Desta "Gadi" Yevarkan, who recently changed his alliance from the Blue & White party to the ruling Likud.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblitt advised the prime minister against the move, claiming it was politically motivated and could be postponed until after the elections, but Netanyahu was adamant he would go ahead.
Ministers then attacked Mandelblit, claiming he was insensitive to the families involved and would have ruled differently had his brother been among those barred from entry.
However, under current restrictions and the government criteria, only dozens of people were found suitable. They will be required to undergo a medical examination to eliminate the risk of diseases such as tuberculosis that is prevalent in Ethiopia.
The Falash Mura are a community in Ethiopia and Eritrea whose forebears converted to Christianity during the 19th and 20th centuries. Many have relatives in Israel and have been trying to obtain permission to immigrate for decades, but have hitherto been denied because they are not considered to be Jewish.
Netanyahu's coalition partner and head of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, Arye Deri, who heads Interior Ministry, had agreed to Netanyahu's pledge to bring 400 of the Falash Mura community to Israel but opposes any attempt to raise that number to eight thousand.
Blue & White leader Benny Gantz has said he thought the entire community waiting in Ethiopia should be allowed into Israel to unite with family already here and would work to that end should he be elected prime minister in the March 2 ballot.
The efforts to bring this community to Israel have been going on for many years and have failed in the past decade because of the policies of the same Benjamin Netanyahu.