Ayelet Shaked
Ayelet ShakedYonatan Sindel/Flash90

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked announced Tuesday evening that Israel is prepared to temporarily host 25,000 Ukrainian citizens who are not covered by the Law of Return in light of the humanitarian crisis caused by Russia's invasion of the country.

"The sights of the war in Ukraine and the suffering of its citizens shock the soul and do not allow us to remain indifferent. These difficult events also have a direct impact on the State of Israel, which is currently preparing to absorb, according to estimates, about 100,000 Jews and those entitled to the Law of Return and their family members fleeing the battle zones," Shaked said.

"The founding fathers of the State of Israel anchored their identity as a national home for the Jewish people, and even stated as a founding element that "the State of Israel will be open to Jewish immigration and the ingathering of the exiles." Our brothers around the world are entitled to return to their homeland by right and not by grace. This is their home.

"Immigrants are expected to arrive mostly destitute and receive citizenship along with all the rights granted to citizens almost immediately. It can be determined with certainty that no other country is expected to deal with an event of this magnitude. For comparison, in terms of population size it is equivalent to granting citizenship to three and a half million people in the US, or over 700,000 new citizens in England. But as the State of Israel has proven more than once in the past, we can meet this historic challenge. The Immigration Absorption Minister is leading this move along with with myself and other ministers.

"To be clear, the fact that the immigrants are entitled to return does not reduce the size of the challenge, nor does it detract from the enormous contribution of the State of Israel to the absorption of Ukrainian citizens fleeing the fighting. The citizens of Israel can certainly be proud of their mobilization for this humanitarian mission. No less important, it is precisely these shocking events that illustrate the first mission of the State of Israel - to be a safe haven for the Jewish people. Fortunately, many countries are willing to give temporary shelter to the citizens of Ukraine, but only one country is willing to be the home of all Jews wherever they are.

"Moreover, the war proves that the Jewish people must trust only in times of need and not abandon their security to anyone else. In the moment of truth, we see what the value of international guarantees is. Although the State of Israel is going above and beyond the international effort to absorb those fleeing the battles, it is right at this time, in light of the special and exceptional circumstances, to show solidarity even with those who do not have the 'right of return,' in a way that balances these principles.

"With the outbreak of the crisis, we began to study the situation and acted with the intention of providing an immediate response to people in distress. Naturally, this is a changing and evolving situation. As the picture becomes clearer, it is clear that the State of Israel cannot continue to absorb Ukrainian citizens almost indefinitely. We are already at a rate of entry of tens of thousands of people, who are not covered by the right of return, within a few months. These numbers are in addition to the huge wave that awaits us of those entitled under the Law of Return that require an answer. Every sensible person understands that such a reality requires redeployment and the formulation of a balanced and sustainable policy. It is easy to criticize and shout from the stands, it is more complex to take responsibility for the future of the State of Israel and make the most correct and considered decisions.

"Therefore, in recent days, together with the Foreign Minister and the Foreign Ministry, I have formulated a responsible policy for the State of Israel:

"First, the State of Israel will temporarily host about 20,000 Ukrainian citizens who were in Israel before the outbreak of hostilities, most of them without any legal status. In addition, if G-d forbid the violence does not stop within a reasonable time, we will allow them to work in Israel.

"Beyond that, it was agreed to set an additional accommodation quota of 5,000 Ukrainian citizens who arrived or will arrive after the outbreak of hostilities. Those who come to Israel will receive a temporary visa for a period of three months, and if, G-d forbid, the situation in their country does not improve by then, they will later also be allowed to work in Israel, similar to the citizens of Ukraine who are already here. Israelis will no longer be forced to deposit bail at the airport, and will only sign an undertaking that the guest will leave Israel from the moment the state of emergency ends, in the hope that this will happen in the near future.

"In total, Israel will temporarily host about 25,000 Ukrainian citizens until the crisis passes. This is a very significant number in itself, on any scale. When you add to this the absorption of immigrants by virtue of the Law of Return, the magnitude of the challenge becomes clear. I have no doubt we will meet it successfully.

"Any Ukrainian citizen wishing to come to Israel will be able to submit an online application on the Foreign Ministry website and as long as the accommodation quota is not filled, in the absence of any other impediment, they will be able to come to Israel temporarily. At the same time, Israeli citizens will be able to apply to invite Ukrainian citizens, up to one nuclear family per applicant, and these will receive as much priority as possible. This will also make it possible to better accommodate those who come to Israel.

"Therefore, from now on, any Ukrainian citizen who wants to board a plane will have to present the permit he received from the Foreign Ministry. Everything is of course online and can be done within 24 hours.

"I will conclude with a prayer that we will see the fulfillment of the words of the prophet Isaiah - "And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." And I hope that the citizens of Ukraine will be able to return to their normal lives in security and peace swiftly and soon," Shaked concluded.