The past two and a half months have seen the rate if immigration to Israel decline by nearly 40% compared with the same period last year, Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption Director-General Haviv Katzav revealed during Wednesday`s meeting of the Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs on the preparedness of the government and local authorities to absorb new immigrants.

Committee Chairman MK Avraham Neguise (Likud) noted that the government`s Immigration Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has yet to convene in order to discuss turning the immigration from France, Ukraine, Belgium and Ethiopia into a budgeted national project.

Neguise also criticized the government for freezing its plan to bring the remaining members of the Falash Mura community from Ethiopia to Israel, and said he would not vote with the government until the plan is revived.

Revealed during Absorption Committee meeting: Past two and a half months have seen 38% decrease in immigration rate

(Archive photo: Moshe Milner, GPO)

MK Yoel Razvozov (Yesh Atid) stressed that ”when it comes to the issue of Aliyah (immigration) and absorption, there is no opposition and coalition, and we cooperate in this committee every week. It is unfortunate that the government is not treating this issue seriously enough.”

MK Mordhay Yogev (HaBayit HaYehudi) said, ”We are in a good period, with 32,000 new immigrants a year, but we must increase this number and help all those who arrived here to remain here.” MK Sofa Landver (Yisrael Beitenu) warned that ”there is a window of opportunity that has not been utilized, and it will soon close. In light of the intensifying anti-Semitism and terror, immigration to Israel should have increased as well. We must implement, fully and urgently, the national plan to encourage Aliyah from France, Belgium and Ukraine, and expand the plan to other countries.”

According to Landver, immigration from Ukraine and France has decreased ”because the immigrants` needs are not being sufficiently met, particularly in the fields of employment and education.”

Yechiel Eckstein, president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, told the committee that since its establishment 15 years ago, the organization has donated $177 million to immigration-related initiatives. ”Unfortunately, today I do not see enough commitment on the part of the government and Members of Knesset to this issue,” he said. ”If the government cares about this issue, it must invest more in absorption.”

Yehuda Sharf of the Jewish Agency estimated that without immigration from Ethiopia, some 33,000 new immigrants will arrive in Israel in 2016. Some 32,000 people made Aliyah in 2015.