Gideon Saar
Gideon Saar Israel news photo: Flash 90

A debate over a proposed law on illegal entry grew heated Tuesday evening, with MKs trading accusations of communism and McCarthyism.

The two primary parties involved were Minister of the Interior Gideon Saar and MK Dov Henin (Hadash).

Saar accused Hadash, Meretz and the Labor party of engaging in provocative behavior rather than focusing on the issues. “You all have chutzpah. You’re slandering the country,” he accused.

Turning to Henin, he said, “You’re from a party that represented the unenlightened communist regimes. Chutzpah!” Henin’s Hadash party is the Knesset’s pro-communist faction.

Henin responded, “Do you have any other irrelevant things to say? Is this how an on-topic debate looks?”

Saar responded, “You represent the illegal entrants, and I represent Israeli residents.” Henin then turned to committee head MK Miri Regev (Likud) and demanded that she “call the minister to order.”

“Let’s not go back to the days of McCarthy,” Henin said. Saar retorted, “Let’s not go back to the days of Stalin – ‘the sun of nations’!”

The new proposed bill would create open residential facilities for illegal entrants to Israel. Those sent to the facilities would be required to check in three times a day to ensure their presence. They would be provided with food, a place to sleep, healthcare and welfare services, but would not be allowed to work.

Illegal entrants could be held in the open facilities for up to one year, at which point they would be released even with no change in their legal status.

One controversial part of the law states that illegal entrants from regions that are home to activities endangering the state of Israel will not be released. Left-wing MKs argued that the rule is unconstitutional, but Saar rejected their arguments and left it in.

Henin argued that the proposed open detainment facilities would not solve the problem. Even if 3,000 people were sent to such facilities, more than 50,000 would remain free, he said.

Henin suggested that illegal entrants be trained to work, and be hired in the place of foreign workers who enter Israel legally from various countries.

Attorney Reut Michaeli from the helpline for foreign workers argued that the proposed detention facilities would essentially be prisons, and that one year’s confinement would be a disproportionate punishment.

MK Esawi Frij (Meretz) leveled similar charges. “There are those in Knesset who are becoming experts in legislature circumventing the Supreme Court,” he said. “The Supreme Court ruled that a person cannot be jailed without trial, but the lawmakers are finding ways to get around the court.”

MK Zvulun Kalfa (Jewish Home) proposed that the state of Israel create a database to keep track of illegal entry in general, and to store entrants’ identifying information.

MK Nachman Shai of the Labor party said he sympathizes with Israelis living in southern Tel Aviv, which has been flooded with illegal entrants in recent years. Sixty thousand illegal entrants cannot remain in the country, he said, and Israel must find a humane way to remove them.