Recently, an agreement between Israel and Russia came into effect, eliminating the need for citizens of the two countries to apply for visas in order to visit.
Yes, this is good news for Israel’s tourism industry. Apparently Russians are the second largest source of tourism for Israel. And while I do sympathize with Israel’s tourism industry, this is bad on almost every other level.
While, in theory, this move might improve relations between the governments of the two countries, the odds of that are not very high. This is the country that has armed Israel’s enemies for nearly all 60 years of its existence. This is the country that is presently the largest barrier between the UN Security Council and any real sanctions against Iran. So forgive me if I don’t think an tourism agreement with a country of 7 million people will be more of a factor in Russia’s foreign policy than its massive arms sales business.
Israel already has enough of a problem with foreign workers illegally overstaying their visas, harming the economy. At some point, there will be so many of them, that will form a real part of the population, and then we will have yet another non-Jewish minority in Israel. This, combined with the high number of people from the FSU who moved to Israel under the pretense of being Jewish, does not bode well for Israel’s future Jewish character.
According to the Israeli Ministry of Interior, approximately a third of the Russian immigrants to Israel are estimated not Jewish. However, upsetting the demographic balance isn’t the only danger non-Jewish immigration presents. We now have neo-Nazis. In Israel. Great.
But it doesn’t stop there. Israel has a women trafficking problem. A few thousand women are brought into Israel every year, and sold into slavery, to work as prostitutes. Most of these women are from the FSU. Making it easier for Russians to go to Israel, stay and work, and maybe even work as pimps, is simply a bad idea.
Now, the U.S. is apparently planning to give Israelis the same benefits. What a mistake. Yes, it’s unfair the western Europeans are able to travel to America without applying for visas, and citizens of Israel, America’s close ally, cannot. But changing that would be wrong on at least two levels.
First, there are already too many Israelis living illegally in the States. Just go to the East Village in NYC, and walking down St. Mark’s Place you’ll wonder if you haven’t found S.Y. Agnon’s secret tunnel to Israel. So many Israelis would just move to America were it not for the visa restrictions. Too many Israelis already go and work in shopping malls across middle America, selling useless toys and AHAVA products. Why would America allow this? Isn’t there already enough of an illegal immigration problem in the U.S.?
More importantly, however, from my point of view, is the danger this presents to Israel. If such an agreement comes to pass, and Israelis will be able to travel to the U.S. freely, the brain drain from Israel’s higher education will turn into a torrent of emigration of academics, along with every Israeli who thinks that the streets of America are paved with gold.
Israel has nothing to gain from such an agreement at this point. We have to make people happy to stay in Israel, and see nothing to gain economically from moving to the other side of the world. Only then, will such an agreement with the U.S. will safe and benefit only those who want to travel and visit the U.S. as tourists.