The debate in Israel continues over Ukrainian refugees
Tel Aviv District Court Judge Michal Agmon-Gonen ruled on May 17 that Israel must grant work permits to Ukrainians seeking refuge from the Russian invasion of their country. The court was responding to an appeal filed by Ukrainian nationals Vitali Smirnov and Jonina Smernova, both in Israel since 2018. While the ruling was issued for claimants who arrived in Israel before the war, it is expected to be applied to other claimants Ukrainian asylum seekers. in Israel too.
Agmon-Gonen criticized the Interior Ministry for its policy towards Ukrainian refugees, accusing Israel of violating their human rights by not allowing them to work. The judge noted: “These rights violations have a direct impact on the ability to live with dignity.
In his ruling, Agmon-Gonen cited a response to the appeal from the Population and Immigration Authority: “Ukrainian nationals who cannot work and support themselves in Israel are free to leave for another country.” She called protection from deportation simple “reluctanlty and to the outside world” which “effectively maintains its policy of ‘constructive expulsion’ – it allows Ukrainian nationals to stay, but does not allow them to support themselves, effectively forcing them to leave, but not by a actual deportation”.
Israel’s Law of Return allows anyone with a Jewish parent to enter Israel and become a citizen. On 5,000 Ukrainians arrived in Israel under this law in early May. A report prepared for the Knesset Education Committee in mid-April said that Another 17,000 Ukrainians arrived in Israel refugees, including 5,400 children.
Shortly after the Russian invasion, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked capped the number of refugees allowed to shelter in Israel at 25,000, a number that included some 20,000 Ukrainians already in Israel with expired visas, meaning that Israel was prepared to take in 5,000 refugees from Ukraine and to regularize the status of 20,000 Ukrainians residing illegally in the country. Following Shaked’s decision, human rights groups petitioned the High Court against the cap. The court ordered the state to justify the limit, which affects an existing diplomatic agreement that allowed Ukrainians to enter on three-month tourist visas.
Given the explosion in the number of refugees, it is unclear whether Israel’s policy cap has officially changed. In response to the work permit request, the immigration authority said Shaked was in talks with the Ukrainian Embassy on the issue of work permits.
Reports said yesterday Arkady Volozh, one of the founders of the Russian search engine Yandex, wrote to Bennett and three other Israeli ministers, informing them that he had decided to move the company’s headquarters to Tel Aviv, away from Russia and sanctions. He asked in his letter for special terms for the company’s otherwise ineligible contracts. workers to move to Israel.
Michael Brodsky, Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine returned to Kyiv May 16 before plans to reopen the Israeli embassy there. It is currently in talks with Ukrainian authorities about reopening. The Israeli move reportedly came after US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced earlier this week that the United States would soon reopen its embassy in Kyiv. After the Russian invasion, Israel first moved its diplomatic offices to Lviv and then moved its staff to Romania. Israel has posted representatives at various border crossings to assist all Israelis and Jews seeking to flee Ukraine and has also set up field hospitals.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz is flying to Washington today. Reports indicate that aside from Iran and other regional issues, Gantz is expected to discuss developments in Ukraine with his American counterpart.
In a change of policy, Gantz’s office announced on April 20 that the minister had spoken by telephone with his Ukrainian counterpart Oleksiy Reznikov, informing him that “in light of the request from the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, it approved the purchase of protective equipment helmets and vests, which will be transferred to the Ukrainian rescue forces and civilian organizations. Until then, Israel had refused Ukrainian requests for protective military equipment. , which will be handed over to the Ukrainian rescue forces and civil organizations in the country.
Yet Ukraine continues to pressure Israel for weapons. Senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy David Arakhamia told The Times of Israel that his country is waiting for Israel to change its position. “Of course, we are waiting. Request number one is to stop blocking arms sales to Ukraine. Israeli kamikaze drones are among the best in the world and we have to buy them.
The issue of Ukraine was also raised in a telephone conversation on May 17 between French President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. A statement issued by the Elysée Palace said: “With regard to Russian aggression against Ukraine, the President of the Republic and the Israeli Prime Minister have also decided to continue to coordinate their efforts achieve a ceasefire and negotiations that respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. They will act together on initiatives to ensure global food security.”