Ayelet Shaked
Ayelet ShakedOren Shelow

Participating in Democracy Day at Reichman University, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked discussed the government's policy with regard to regulating Bedouin settlement in the Negev.

"We are working on a series of three Bedouin settlements and the establishment of ten new settlements following the decision to establish a new city called Kasif. For many years, under Netanyahu governments, there has been a policy of not building new settlements because it's expensive to do so. But the Negev is an exceptional place and we must encourage settlement there and increase the number of communities.

"And then we have the phenomenon of homes and communities that aren't regulated," she continued. "There's polygamy and all the challenges this creates." Commenting on this week's terrorist attack in Be'er Sheva in which four people were murdered, Shaked noted, "A terrorist is a terrorist and this was a very difficult event for the Negev population when this despicable person was murdered, and I think that we need to take a very harsh line here. He didn't emerge alive which is a very good thing - and I salute the civilian heroes who were involved."

With regard to absorption of refugees from Ukraine, Shaked said, "The State of Israel is now facing a very unique challenge with this war in Europe that involves a country which has very close ties with Israel. There is a very large [Jewish] community in Ukraine. Despite all the quarreling, we must remember that Israel is the national home for the Jewish people. As Interior Minister I need to look forward and take everything into account, and all those who want us to open our gates and welcome everyone in need to realize that such a policy has far-reaching consequences. The task at hand is to bring Jews and people who are eligible according to the Law of Return here, and so far, around five thousand have arrived from Ukraine. We are expecting many more to arrive," she noted, "and this will present us with a huge challenge, also in terms of providing housing and education for all the new immigrants."

Moving on to the topic of Judea and Samaria, Shaked said, "Most Palestinians live in Areas A and B, and our plan is to apply Israeli law to Area C, and the Palestinians living within that area will become full Israeli citizens in every respect.

The Law of Return is an exceptional law, and there's no other country in the world where an immigrant can arrive and immediately be presented with an ID card, a passport, housing, and so forth. Only Israel grants this aid and only to those eligible according to the Law of Return. I know there are people who disagree with how we are dealing with this situation and the fact that we aren't absorbing thousands and thousands of people, but we have established a field hospital in Ukraine and we are indeed welcoming thousands of Ukrainians here. Some of the pictures coming out of Ben Gurion Airport are simply a distortion of the truth. Terminal One has been dedicated to immigrants. But our general policy in this conflict is for [Prime Minister] Bennett to mediate between Zelenskiy and Putin."

Shaked also discussed the Citizenship Law, and noted that, "This has been a controversial issue for years, but every year, the Shabak insists that the law must be extended. This year, the opposition - which supports the law in theory - voted against for political reasons but the Shabak chief told me that this is a law that is critical for state security. Eventually, we did manage to cooperate with the opposition and get it passed, with the addition of caps, but we have to remember that first and foremost, Israel is the national home of the Jewish people, and we don't want the Right of Return [for Palestinians] crawling in via the Law of Return."

Shaked also referred to a law that bars those with a criminal conviction from forming a government, and noted that, "When that law was passed, we didn't have a Prime Minister who was under indictment and there were no ulterior motives to such a law. The decision of the Attorney-General need not prevent a prime minister from heading a government - the purpose of the law was to enable judicial review. We have had two instances of indictments served and Israeli democracy survived them."

Summarizing her personal ambitions for the future, Shaked insisted that, "My political future is in the Yamina party. I am a member of a varied coalition government but I still maintain my identity."