(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)
At the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday, 6 September 2009,
1. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the following remarks:
"Today, we mark 20 years since the great wave of immigration to the State of Israel. Twenty years have passed since the Iron Curtain fell, since the gates of the Soviet Union were opened to free emigration. Approximately 1 million new immigrants have since come to Israel from the former Soviet Union, along with immigrants from Ethiopia, the US and Europe, and have changed the face of Israeli society.
The immigrants have integrated into the life of the country and have become a principal and important element in all aspects of life: economics, security, academia, medicine, sports, culture, the arts. With hindsight, it is possible to say that the wave of immigration was one of the greatest miracles to happen in the State of Israel. Today, the Cabinet will discuss immigration and absorption. We will be briefed by Absorption Minister Sofa Landver and Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky. Ministers Yuli Edelstein and Stas Misezhnikov are also here. Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman is currently in Africa. I think that the presence of these ministers and of Natan Sharansky, all from the former USSR, is the best testimony to their integration into the leadership of the country.
I know that there have been – and still are – difficulties in this process. We will discuss some of them today. Some of them we have already dealt with, such as the plan to absorb immigrant scientists, which I began in 1996, along with Ronnie Karli. I know that there were problems and we resolved them in 2009 and I will also instruct that they be resolved in 2010; today, we will continue with this plan. But the most important thing in my eyes is to understand that, despite these difficulties, we successfully absorbed almost 15% of the population of the State of Israel in a few years. This is not something that other countries in the world do either easily or at all; most do not. We do so because it is our purpose and our mission. The ingathering of the exiles is one of the foundations of the Jewish state; therefore, we – like all Israeli Governments – are committed to continuing this process. I would like to take this opportunity to commend the approximately 1 million immigrants from various countries who have come to the State of Israel in recent years; I would like to wish you all a continued successful absorption and may you continue to contribute to the State of Israel."
The Cabinet then received several briefings on immigration from the former Soviet Union, incorporating a variety of data and detailing the immigrants’ contributions to Israeli society in various fields. Immigrant Absorption Minister Landver, Immigrant Absorption Ministry Director-General Dmitry Apartsev, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, IDF Chief Education Officer Brig.-Gen. Eli Shreimster and National Economic Council Prof. Eugene Kandel were among those who briefed the ministers.
Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky briefed the ministers on the latent immigration potential in the countries of the former USSR and on the current window of opportunity as a result of the economic crisis.
In the subsequent discussion, ministers commented on various problems facing immigrants: conversion to Judaism (for some of them), housing, learning Hebrew, and absorption into the labor force in the professions for which they were trained in their countries of origin or professional retraining.
Prime Minister Netanyahu instructed that work be done towards finding solutions to these problems as well as facilitating the absorption of immigrant scientists in 2010, arranging smoother absorption procedures at Ben-Gurion International Airport, attracting immigrants with in-demand skills, and economically assisting both new immigrants and returning Israelis.
2. Pursuant to Article 12 of the 1959 State Service Law (Appointments) and in accordance with the recommendations of the relevant ministers, the Cabinet appointed Haim Shani as Finance Ministry Director-General (in place of Yoram Ariav) and Sharon Kedmi as Industry, Trade and Employment Ministry Director-General (in place of Moshe Levain).