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Bennett defends Shaked over criticism on refugees: She shouldn’t be ‘a punching bag’

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked (L) and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the Knesset on October 11, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked (L) and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the Knesset on October 11, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett defends Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked amid a wave of criticism she’s facing over Israel’s policies on accepting Ukrainian refugees.

“Over the past two weeks a situation has arisen in which everyone has turned the interior minister into a government punching bag,” says Bennett at the cabinet meeting.

The prime minister stresses that all of Israel’s policies on the issue “were decided on in full coordination with all relevant parties,” including the foreign minister and finance minister. Bennett says that some voices in the government “were more conservative than the interior minister herself.”

The prime minister tells gathered cabinet ministers that “anyone who has a problem [with the policy] should respect her and pick up the phone to call her instead of [criticizing] her in the media.”

Originally, Shaked — whose ministry controls entry into the country — had announced that Israel would only accept 5,000 Ukrainian refugees who were not eligible for Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return. Amid a wave of criticism and legal threats, she then said that any refugees with family in the country would be allowed in. So far, more than 13,500 Ukrainians have entered Israel since the start of the war, with around 10,000 not eligible for citizenship.

Shaked has been the subject of harsh public criticism from many figures including government ministers, with Diaspora Minister Nachman Shai and Welfare Minister Meir Cohen speaking out against the current policy, and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman also offering veiled criticism.

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