The government held a special session this morning on various issues connected with illegal immigration. Disappointment, directed mainly at Defense Minister Ehud Barak, was expressed at the fact that construction of the fence between Egypt and Israel would begin only in November.
The purpose of the fence is to block African infiltrators making their way into Israel via the Sinai Desert. Public Security Minister Yitzchak Aharonovitch says there are some 150,000 illegal infiltrators, only 16 percent of whom are registered and known to the authorities.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu officially informed the ministers that construction would begin in November. Barak gave several excuses for the delay in the work, explaining that it was a very difficult and complex project, and that there had been a glitch with tenders, and the like.
The fence is to be 240 kilometers long, and is currently slated to cost 140 million shekels ($362,000).
Last week, MK Yaakov Katz (National Union), chairman of the Knesset Committee for Foreign Workers, formed the Knesset lobby for the Prevention of Illegal Immigration to Israel. Co-founders were MKs Nachman Shai (Kadima) and Carmel Shama (Likud). Present for the kick-off ceremony were mayors of cities that are negatively affected by the influx of thousands of illegal aliens.
MK Katz has been calling for the construction of the fence ever since he entered the Knesset nearly a year and a half ago. It is estimated that a year ago, 7% of the population of the southern port city of Eilat were illegal infiltrators – and that this proportion has now grown to 12%. Tel Aviv is said to have 25,000 infiltrators.
The Cabinet also discussed briefly proposed changes to the citizenship law, according to which new would-be permanent residents and immigrants – mainly Arabs from PA-controlled areas who marry Israeli-Arabs – would have to pledge allegiance to Israel “as a Jewish and democratic state, and abide by its laws.” The ministers agreed to resume the discussion next week and not link it to the fence discussion.