"I would like to express my appreciation to the Defense Ministry and the IDF, and to the other ministries, which have joined in the great effort to close Israel ‘s borders to the flood of infiltrators seeking work. We live in a global economy. Holding to the idea of the passage of goods, information and people in a controlled manner, we are obliged to defend ourselves from the flood of migration that could change the Jewish-democratic character of the country. This danger also requires us to think about the significant threat to Israelis’ jobs. To meet these twin goals, we have set the goal of closing off the border by various means, one being a physical barrier.
It seems, from the checks that we have made, that the physical barrier could be more significant than we first thought. It is possible to deploy it, as you see here, at the same time, in a temporary manner or permanently. It is very likely that in the future, we will physically close off almost all of the country’s borders. It could be that this is the only way to ensure the developing economy of the State of Israel.
It is likely that what is currently happening in Africa is not the end of the story, and that in the coming years the situation will get even worse because of various developments taking place there, which I do not care to go into detail about here. These developments could lead to greater waves of illegal migration than we have hereto witnessed.
We have not changed our position on refugees. Checks that we have carried out indicate that less than 1% of the infiltrators are refugees; more than 99% of them are seeking work. We are determined to stop this phenomenon. You may expect quarterly visits from me and the relevant ministers. I thereby intend, personally, to make certain that the work on the barrier between us and Egypt is proceeding. During the briefing that I received here, I said that it is very likely that we will need to duplicate this work on our eastern border. In the end, infiltrators seeking work will, like water, seek out the lowest point to penetrate.
The first lesson that I received many years ago when I visited the IDF unit that I used to serve in is that there is no fence in which there is not a hole. Therefore, we are not talking about a barrier alone, but about a comprehensive system that also involves the deployment of forces, intelligence and various countermeasures, including fining employers, action in the international sphere, dealing with the infiltrators who are here and allowing them passage to their countries of origin and to intermediate countries. We are promoting all of these and I believe that we will see results very soon.
From what I heard from the IDF, I gained the impression that it should be possible to reduce the number of infiltrators in 2011 by almost half, and to reduce it even further in 2012. I congratulate all those involved for setting these goals."
Prime Minister Netanyahu answered several questions from journalists.
Question: "A year ago, you took us to Mt. Saguy and said that it was necessary to block the infiltrators. Last year, there were 4,900 infiltrators. Today there are 12,000. Do you see this as a failure for the Government?"
Prime Minister Netanyahu: "This effort has been necessary for four or five years. Infiltration across the south-western border was like the weather – one talks about it, but nobody does anything. It took us some time. We mobilized our forces. The Government made a decision, regarding resources and budgets. I expect that you will see significant changes here. I am very determined to build this barrier. From the outset, I thought that there was no alternative to building the barrier as a necessary, but not sufficient condition, for stopping this flood. I am pleased that my Government is implementing what has been defined as vital. We are putting things into action."
Question: "Mr. Prime Minister, recently, we have witnessed all kinds of phenomena of intolerance and xenophobia. There have been all kinds of posters in Tel Aviv and elsewhere: ‘Don’t rent apartments to foreigners.’ How do you view these phenomena especially in light of the history of our people? And if I may ask another question, about WikiLeaks, is Israel prepared for these publications?"
Prime Minister Netanyahu: "In our contacts with the Americans, and we are in constant touch with them, there has been no specific reference to what is expected to be revealed regarding us. It does not seem to me that this is the center of international attention, but there always could be something in those reports. I do not know if the Americans know, or have managed to clarify, what there is there. In any case, it will certainly provide them with fruitful work. We have not received any specific update on these issues.
It has always been accepted that in these reports, there is a gap between what people say in private and what they say in public, even regarding American diplomatic guests and one’s interlocutors in their own countries. The difference is that in the State of Israel, the relative gap is not so big as opposed to some of the other countries in the region in which the gaps are very large. There is no reason to prepare for something we cannot know about in advance.
Regarding the question about attitudes toward foreign nationals, the reason that this flood is growing daily is that the migrants, those illegal infiltrators who are seeking work, know that it is good to be in the State of Israel. Believe me; they are trying very hard to get here. It is not only for economic reasons, which is the first basis, but because we are a humane country and people. Of course, there are displays of extremism, but we are not talking about that.
On the contrary, these condemnations that stem from extremism and intolerance will only grow if instead of 1,000 people a month, or 12,000 a year, 45,000 people – or even more – come here per annum, and this is certainly possible. In such a case, what will happen then will be far greater than what is happening now and this could pull Israeli society downward in many ways. Thus, we need to act now. We have started to implement things gradually, some at the same time; I think that this will bear results soon.
It would seem very likely that as a result of this, in Sudan and in Eritrea , and in other places in Africa , they know that we are adamant, they indeed know what we are doing here and what you see here today, and that there will be an increase of emigration in order to enter before the border is closed.
It is unavoidable, but we will simply work quicker and in a more determined manner. But in relation to Israel ‘s humanity, I say that we are outstanding in our regional setting. It is possible that we are exceptional in the world. We are a humanitarian country, but we are a sane country. As a sane country we must defend ourselves. We must defend the national character of the State of Israel, and we must close the border. And that is what we will do."
Question: "There are tens of thousands of migrant workers whose work visas have expired. How will we deal with them?"
Prime Minister Netanyahu: "The first task is to prevent the expansion of the pool because otherwise we will reach a point of critical mass which we will not be able to handle. That is the most important undertaking. There are also other steps which we are discussing, but for the point of the matter I want to declare today a halt. Simply a damming of the flood. And about other things, there will be sufficient opportunity for us to discuss them."