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Netanyahu: Deportations to Begin 'Soon'

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said his government will begin enforcing Israel's immigration laws soon; calls for calm in Tel Aviv
By Gabe Kahn
First Publish: 5/24/2012, 7:28 PM

Binyamin Netanyahu
Binyamin Netanyahu
Reuters

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Thursday vowed to begin enforcing Israel’s immigration laws and deporting illegal aliens “soon.”

"The problem of the illegal aliens must be solved and we will solve it," Netanyahu said. "We will complete construction of the fence within a few months and we will soon begin repatriating illegal aliens back to their countries of origin.."

"However," Netanyahu said in reference to violence that erupted following a rally in south Tel Aviv demanding deportations begin. "I would like to make it clear that there is no place for either the expressions or the actions that we witnessed last night."

"I say this to the public and the residents of Tel Aviv," he added. "We will solve the problem and we will do so responsibly.”

On Wednesday, more than 1,000 people calling for immigration laws to be enforced demonstrated at the corner of Irgun and Haganah in the southern Tel Aviv neighborhood of Hatikva.

During the rally, MK Danny Danon – who chairs the Knesset committee tasked with preventing illegal immigration to Israel – declared to demonstrators, "The state of Israel is at war with an enemy state that has formed within Israel and has its capital in southern Tel Aviv!"

After the rally some protesters smashed windows, lit garbage cans on fire, and damaged a car that had three illegal aliens in it. No one was hurt in the incident. On Thursday police arrested 12 people on suspicion of attacking the vehicle, and running riot.

Witnesses say vast majority of those who attended the rally both arrived and departed peacefully, despite the deep frustration felt by local residents.

Late last year, Netanyahu – who has described the deluge of illegal aliens in Israel a "national catastrophe" and "demographic threat" – said he would travel to Africa to meet with leaders and arrange for the safe return of their nationals currently in Israel.

Israel, a small nation of some 8 million people – of whom 75% are Jewish – does not have the capacity to absorb large numbers of non-Jewish immigrants or refugees while at the same time ensuring the Jewish character of the state.

Israel's left has derided attempts to deport illegal aliens as 'racism' and 'incitement,' and argued that returning African refugees to their countries – especially Sudanese nationals – would endanger their lives.

However, discussions between the Foreign Ministry and the Attorney General this week concluded that in most cases illegal aliens from Africa can be safely returned to their countries of origin.

Israel's state prosecutor has been tasked with investigating the circumstances of illegal aliens who do claim to be legitimate refugees on a case by case basis. However, most illegal aliens come to Israel seeking work and do not qualify as refugees.

Like Netanyahu, Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin called on lawmakers to "guard their words" and avoid statements on emotionally charged social issues that could inflame passions.

He singled out MK Miri Regev – who also spoke at Wednesday’s rally – as an example of a lawmaker vigorously working to force the government to establish clear policies and working solutions on the problem of illegal aliens in Israel.

Meanwhile, Tivka neighborhood Councilor Gal Sharabi said Thursday marked the first time he had seen true anger burning in his neighbor's eyes. He cited years of frustration and rising violence by illegal immigrants as the reason tensions finally boiled over.