Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked has said she refuses to allow the state to fund medical insurance for several thousand Ukrainian refugees who have arrived in Israel, according to a Thursday report.
Shaked said there is “no chance” Israel would pay for the medical insurance, three sources present during a government cabinet meeting told Channel 12 news.
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz hit back according to the network, saying in a separate closed meeting: “It is inconceivable that we are receiving people from a war and not giving them medical treatment.”
“It is a shame and a disgrace,” Horowitz added, vowing he wouldn’t let Shaked have her way.
But according to the report, the government’s decision is to not pay for the insurance for now, even though the costs are not particularly high, estimated at only a few million shekels, the network noted.
Shaked said in response that “these are not refugees but people who are coming [to Israel] on a tourist visa.”
“They will receive urgent medical care through Terem [Emergency Medical Services Centers] but there are families who host them and they can handle their private insurance,” she added.
The network said Shaked is worried refugees with Israeli health insurance would settle permanently in the country, and not leave once the war in Europe ends.
The issue was again expected to be discussed during Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting, the report said.
Shaked has played a central role in the ongoing tumult over Israel’s refugee policy.
Israel’s handling of arrivals previously caused outrage, with some would-be entrants kept waiting for hours and even days at the airport, before Shaked last week arranged for them to be accommodated at a hotel while their paperwork was processed.
Shaked first announced last week that Israel was preparing to take in 100,000 refugees who are eligible for citizenship under the Law of Return, meaning people with at least one Jewish grandparent.
Meanwhile, she capped the number of refugees ineligible for citizenship to be admitted at 5,000 (in addition to 20,000 who were in the country before war erupted). Amid a public outcry, however, she later announced that any relatives of Israelis will also be granted entry without a cap.
However, it remained unclear what proximity of relatives exactly would be acceptable.
Since the start of fighting when Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, over 10,000 Ukrainians have arrived in Israel. Of those, some 2,800 are eligible to immigrate under Israel’s Law of Return or have already, according to Immigration and Absorption Ministry figures. Another 944 of them have left Israel either by choice or have been refused entry.