Binyamin Netanyahu resists call for Israel to accept refugees

Politicians liken plight of those fleeing Syria to Jews escaping Nazi-occupied Europe

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “We must control our borders  to prevent both the entry of illegal migrants seeking work and perpetrators of terrorism.” Photograph: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “We must control our borders to prevent both the entry of illegal migrants seeking work and perpetrators of terrorism.” Photograph: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images

 

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu is resisting calls for Israel to accept refugees from neighbouring Syria, including from politicians who likened the plight of the refugees to Jews desperately seeking a safe haven from Nazi-occupied Europe during the second World War.

“Israel is not indifferent to the human tragedy of the refugees from Syria and Africa, ” Mr Netanyahu said.

“We’ve already devotedly treated around 1,000 people who were wounded in the battles in Syria and have helped them rebuild their lives.

“However, Israel is a small country – a very small country. We do not have demographic or geographic depth and we must therefore control our borders – to prevent both the entry of illegal migrants seeking work and perpetrators of terrorism.”

Mr Netanyahu’s comments came in response to the call from opposition leader Yitzhak Herzog, who argued that Israel, of all countries, had a moral obligation to accept Syrian refugees.

“Jews cannot be apathetic when hundreds of thousands of refugees are seeking safety,” he said. “Netanyahu has forgotten what it means to be a Jew. The Jewish people have suffered the world’s silence before and cannot ignore the murder and massacre taking place in Syria.”

Memory of Holocaust

Deputy minister for regional affairs, Ayoub Kara, called on Israel to take in a large number of refugees because of the Holocaust.

Syria and Israel have fought three wars, including the Six-Day War in 1967 when Israel captured the strategic Golan Heights from Syria. Anat Berko, a Knesset member from the ruling Likud party argued it would be irresponsible for Israel to accept refugees from an enemy country.