Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett decided on Tuesday to allow the immigration of 3,000 Jews from war-torn Ethiopia.
The decision came following a tumultuous Israeli government session, which saw accusations that the authorities were privileging immigrants from Ukraine over those coming from Ethiopia.
A spokesman said this would be a first step towards welcoming 10,000 migrants currently living in tents near Addis Ababa.
Bennett had presented before the session a plan to accommodate several tens of thousands of immigrants from Ukraine and Russia, who were knocking on Israel’s door to escape the war. He pointed to strong criticism leveled at him and his colleague in the Yamina party leadership, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, for refusing to grant temporary residence to thousands of people coming from these areas.
“Israel is part of the world, which is going through a difficult and terrifying period these days. We are managing this complex crisis sensitively, responsibly and by striving to extend a helping hand, as much as possible. We are preparing to absorb the new arrivals and the people who are eligible to come to the country according to the text of the Law of Return,” Bennett told the ministers.
However, his words angered Minister of Immigrant and Absorption, Pnina Tamano-Shata, who is of Ethiopian descent. She said that Ethiopian Jews, who have been trying to flee their war-torn country did not enjoy the same sympathy in Israel enjoyed by Ukrainian Jews who are also escaping war in their country.
“This is hypocrisy of the white people,” Tamano-Shata said during the cabinet meeting.
“We must also work to advance the immigration of Jews from Ethiopia who are also fleeing a war,” she added.
The minister was asked to withdraw her words, but she declined.
In response, the government approved a plan to absorb 3,000 Ethiopians, without specifying the number of Russians and Ukrainians who would be accommodated in Israel. But sources in Bennett’s office spoke of around 30,000 to 50,000 refugees who are expected to enter the country.
Israeli authorities did not publish accurate information about the number of Russians who have arrived in Israel. On Tuesday, reports said that the immigration authorities were refraining from imposing any restrictions on the Russian-Jewish oligarchs, who obtained Israeli citizenship under the “Law of Return”, a law that allows only Jews to immigrate to the country.