Netanyahu rejects call to take in Syrian refugees

2015-09-06 14:28
(Dan Balilty, AP)

(Dan Balilty, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Jerusalem - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday rejected a call by Israel's opposition leader to provide refuge to Syrian refugees, saying the country is too small to take them in.

Images in recent days of thousands of refugees herded on and off trains in Europe as they sought a safe haven from Middle East conflict struck a chord in Israel, a state created three years after the Nazi Holocaust which killed six million Jews.

Isaac Herzog, head of the main opposition Zionist Union party, appealed to Israeli leaders to "absorb refugees from the fighting in Syria", a northern neighbour that Israel considers an enemy state.

In public remarks at a cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said Israel was "not indifferent to the human tragedy" of refugees from Syria and noted that Israeli hospitals have been treating wounded from its civil war.

"However, Israel is a very small state. It has no geographic depth or demographic depth," the right-wing premier said, suggesting that taking in Arab refugees would upset the demographic balance in a predominantly Jewish state where about a fifth of the 8.3 million population are Arab citizens.

Though there have been no international calls on Israel to open its borders to Syrians, Herzog said Netanyahu had a moral duty to accept refugees.

"The prime minister of the Jewish people would not shut his heart and the gates when people are fleeing for their lives, with babies in their arms, from persecutors," Herzog said.

Citing dangers faced by Palestinian refugees who have long lived in camps in Syria, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said they should be allowed into the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where he exercises limited self-rule.

Israel has said the overall issue of a right of return for Palestinian refugees would be settled only as part of a final peace accord. Israeli-Palestinian talks broke off in 2014.

At the cabinet session, Netanyahu coupled his remarks on Syrian refugees by saying that Israel must further secure its borders against African migrants and Islamist militants.

He announced the start of construction of a new 30km stretch of fence along the frontier with Jordan, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994.

Israel completed a 230km barrier along the Egyptian border in 2013. Israel and Egypt made peace in 1979.

Israel has fences on the Lebanon border and along the line between the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and Syria.

Much of the West Bank is also divided by an Israeli-built barrier, while the Islamist Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip is closed off behind high fences and walls.

Read more on:    mahmoud abbas  |  isaac herzog  |  benjamin netanyahu  |  israel  |  syria  |  migrants

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.