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Israel, the West, and the Migration Challenge

by Gideon Sa'ar
Gideon Sa'ar
Over the past decade, Israel has been challenged by large scale migration from Africa, mainly from Eritrea and Sudan. Tens of thousands infiltrated into Israel from the Sinai border in order to find employment. Countermeasures by the government focused on border closure, deterrence, and the encouragement of voluntary exit. However, these measures have since eroded, and hence the question is whether infiltration into Israel will grow in 2016.
Here the proven link between measures adopted (or not adopted) by a country and the scale of the infiltration should clearly be taken into account. A resolute policy is a barrier, while its erosion tends to encourage infiltration, at first in a few cases, followed by a growing tide. Israel must realize that its standard of living and proximity to conflict-torn areas in the Middle East and Africa expose it to the ongoing risk of illegal immigration. In response to this challenge, Israel must therefore adopt a clear, resolute policy. The failure of Europe in coping with mass immigration should act as a warning sign, as Israel faces the challenge of protecting its character as the nation state of the Jewish people. 
In 2015, mass migration, whether it be of refugees from war-torn areas or simply jobseekers, became a leading issue in many Western democracies. In the United States, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is riding a wave of popular antagonism toward immigration. In Switzerland, the Swiss People’s Party, which demands limitations on immigration, won a decisive victory in the October elections. Immigration was also the focus of debate in the recent regional elections in France, to a considerable degree because of the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris. Moreover, France is among the European Union countries seeking to formulate a uniform policy on the issue of migration, which pits principles of national character against humanistic values.

Overall, as public awareness to the issue of immigration rose, the political systems in most Western countries, heeding public opinion, moved in a more conservative direction. Concern about a change in national character as a result of the significant extent of the phenomenon has fed this trend. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s remarks about her desire to “drastically reduce” the number of immigrants reaching Germany thus signals a watershed in German immigration policy, after one million immigrants entered the country in 2015.

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