By Amit Acco, Partner |
Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is making a right-wing dramatic comeback. The right-wing “Block” won a majority in parliament with the far-right and religious Jewish party’s help.
While this is the 6th government to be formed by Netanyahu, he will be very dependent on the support of the ultra-nationalist Religious Zionism parties. Leaders of these parties, including Itamar Ben Gvir (Otzma Yehudit Party) and Bezalel Smutrich (Religious Zionist Party), have related in the past to issues that emerged from Immigration, calling to restrict the entry of asylum workers and even adopt a policy of deportation for illegal aliens as well as suggesting deportation of “disloyal” politicians or civilians.
How will this new 6th Netanyahu right-wing government shape its Immigration policy? It is still unknown how much pressure the far-right politicians will put on immigration issues, but clearly, political party ideology will have an effect on immigration policy.
Policies Regarding Aliyah, Foreign Experts (Expats), and Spouses of Israeli Nationals
Taking into consideration that Netanyahu was already served as the Israeli Prime Minister for a significant time in the past, we are under the opinion that there will be no robust effect of the far- right-wing political ideology over the government immigration policy.
We expect that the following areas of immigration will not see any major policy changes: the right of Jewish descendants to obtain Israeli nationality (Aliyah), entry and work of foreign national experts, and the legal status of foreign spouses of Israeli nationals.
Policies Regarding Asylum Seekers, And Migrant Workers
On the other hand, we do expect, that some initiatives will be taken by the new government in relation to certain immigration policy areas, primarily to certain migrant groups, particularly asylum seekers, migrant workers, and other similarly related groups. The reasoning for these policies will be argued to be on the grounds of protection of the Israeli labor market as well as the preserving the characteristics of a Jewish State and its security.
However, restricting asylum seekers, and migrant workers’ flow will not be a new policy for Netanyahu’s new government: Netanhihu already dealt with the flow of African Job and asylum seekers between 2007-2012. This phenomenon began when a large number of people from Africa entered Israel, mainly through the then-lightly fenced border between Israel and Egypt. According to the Ministry of Interior’s official data, 26,635 people arrived illegally in this way by July 2010, and over 55,000 by January 2012.
The growing numbers presented a challenge for the then Netanyahu government, threatening to change the delicate demography of Israel. Israel considered most of them of them to be job seekers rather than asylum seekers, and says it has no legal obligation to keep them in country. Israeli officials commonly refer to them as “infiltrators.”
Benjamin Netanyahu, then as a Prime Minister, instructed and executed back in 2012 a policy of constructing a border fence along Israel’s border with Egypt, to stop the potential “flood” of illegal migrants from Africa. This policy is regarded as a success in stopping the asylum and job seekers’ flood.
At that time Netanyahu said that the only way in which Israel can ensure that it remains a Jewish, democratic state is to keep the migrants out:
“How could we assure a Jewish and democratic state with 50,000 and then 100,000 and 150,000 migrants a year. After a million, 1.5 million, one could close up shop”.
Another left-right controversial Immigration policy is the Citizenship and Entry to Israel Law, which prevents family reunions in Israel of mixed Palestinian and Israeli Arab couples.
In the last 18 years, despite the rapid changes in government, this law has been extended each year and was justified by demographic and security reasons.
The only exception to the continuity of extensions to the law was between July 2021 – March 2022 (during the current government), when the law was not extended due to a temporary ad-hock political majority raised against its extension in the government.
Ayelet Shaked, current Interior Minister, said about this law: “It is about a Zionist, national and security law of the first order, which could not be neglected solely because of petty politics”.
The Likud, Binyamin Netanyahu political party, constantly supported the extension of the law, and will surely continue to do so with the far-right party’s support, during the new government term.