Amid refugee feud, Ukrainian ambassador gives Shaked flowers

Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk was spotted Tuesday giving Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked a bouquet of flowers at a Tel Aviv cafe, days after petitioning the High Court of Justice against her refugee policy.

As war pummels Ukraine and millions flee the country, Israel has adopted a hardline stance against taking in large numbers of refugees who are not eligible for citizenship under the Law of Return, a policy spearheaded by Shaked.

Under that policy, Israel has placed an entry quota of 25,000 refugees who are not otherwise eligible for Israeli citizenship — including 20,000 who were already in the country when the war started — drawing criticism from both within and outside the government.

On Saturday, Ukraine’s embassy in Israel said it was backing a petition to the High Court of Justice against the country’s limitations on the entry of Ukrainian refugees.

The petition filed by Israeli attorney Tomer Warsha urged the High Court to issue an injunction blocking the new policies and forcing the government to allow Ukrainians in.

In a letter signed by Korniychuk, the embassy said its appeals to Israeli authorities had been “ignored and left unanswered,” and that the ambassador had turned to legal means due to “exhausted diplomatic possibilities.”

Refugees board a flight to Israel at Iasi Airport in Romania, on March 3, 2022. (The Times of Israel)

Korniychuk last week harshly condemned the Jewish state for not doing more to assist Ukraine by providing defensive aid, absorbing more refugees, and taking a clear stance against Russia, accusing Israel of being “afraid” of Moscow.

While Shaked responded to the rising criticism over the country’s refugee policy by announcing Sunday that those fleeing the Russian invasion with relatives in Israel will be exempt from the entry cap, Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai deemed the move “too little, too late.”

Shaked has defended the strict policy by insisting that “there is no other country that is absorbing immigrants at such a scale.” While her comments her may be correct in terms of immigration, countless other countries are absorbing or expecting to absorb far higher numbers of refugees.

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