(March 6, 2022 / JNS) Israel is prepared for a “significant” wave of immigration as a result of the war in Ukraine, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Sunday.
In his opening address to Sunday’s Cabinet meeting, Bennett said the state was currently working on scenarios involving the absorption of “varying numbers” of immigrants, which he said would be presented to the Cabinet this week.
“At such moments, when the world is facing turmoil and Jews are no longer safe where they are, everyone is reminded how important it is that there is a home for Jews wherever they are; how important it is that we have the State of Israel,” he said.
“This is a challenge for the State of Israel, but it is a challenge we have met in the past, time and again,” he added.
The prime minister spoke only hours after returning from visits to Moscow and Berlin for discussions surrounding events in Ukraine.
“I went there to assist the dialogue between all of the sides, of course with the blessing and encouragement of all players,” said Bennett on Sunday.
Bennett met for several hours on Saturday evening with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and on Sunday morning spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for the third time in the past 24 hours, according to Bennett’s office.
“As you all know, the situation on the ground is not good. The human suffering is great and is liable to be much greater. There are also Israelis who need to return home and Jewish communities in distress that need help,” Bennett told the Cabinet on Sunday, adding, “Naturally, I cannot go into greater detail.”
Israel has so far sent 100 tons of medical equipment, winter gear and other emergency supplies to Ukraine, and on Saturday announced plans to set up a field hospital in Ukraine this week.
Israel, Bennett said on Sunday, would continue to assist “as needed” and wherever the opportunity to do so presented itself.
“Even if the chance is not great—as soon as there is even a small opening, and we have access to all sides and the capability—I see this as our moral obligation to make every effort. As long as the candle is burning, we must make an effort and perhaps it will yet be possible to act.”
From Ukraine the prime minister turned to Iran and its nuclear program.
“A significant and positive thing occurred over the weekend: IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi visited Tehran and decided not to accede to the Iranian demand to close the open files under political pressure,” said Bennett. Tehran had made the demand within the context of the ongoing talks in Vienna surrounding a potential return to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear agreement.
“This is an important professional decision by the IAEA and Grossi, who did not give in to Iranian pressure,” said Bennett.
Israel’s position on the matter, he said, was well known.
“The disadvantages of the agreement far outweigh its advantages. In any case, the agreement does not obligate the State of Israel in any way,” he said.
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