After Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu relented on Thursday to their protest by agreeing to have 1,300 Ethiopian Jews brought home to Israel this year, Likud MKs Avraham Neguise and David Amsalem celebrated the approaching aliyah.
The two MKs refused to vote with the coalition in protest since early March, when Netanyahu's office canceled the Knesset decision from last November to bring Ethiopia’s 9,000 remaining Jews to Israel, citing budget constraints as a reason.
By bucking coalition discipline, the two crippled the narrow coalition that has a one-seat majority – as a result they will be punished in the summer Knesset session, being banned from submitting bills and giving plenum speeches among other things.
But Immigrant Absorption Committee chairperson Neguise and Interior Committee chairperson Amsalem welcomed the fruits of their protest regardless, issuing a joint statement on Thursday night.
The MKs said they were "happy and moved, together with the families in Israel of those waiting for aliyah and members of the community in Addis Ababa and Gondar."
"The Prime Minister made historic justice when he ordered to carry out the government's decision as it was stated. Along the path we believed that the struggle we were conducting was an ethical and moral struggle, and we have merited to have our brothers start arriving in Israel in another two months."
Hailing the move, they said, "this is an important tiding for the entire nation of Israel, that the Jews of Ethiopia will merit to celebrate the next (Passover) seder night with their family members."
"Aliyah from the entire world is a celebration for the Jewish nation and it is the foundation stone of the state of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state."
In conclusion, they added, "there is no doubt that today an historic achievement was made which unites and strengthens the nation of Israel, and we are happy that we have the merit to be partners in this important and exalted process. Am Yisrael chai! (the nation of Israel lives – ed.)."
Beginning in the 1980s, Israel brought in tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews. The remaining community in Ethiopia is comprised primarily of Falash Mura, who are descendants of Jews forcibly converted to Christianity generations ago.
The Ethiopian community in Israel has for years called on the government to bring the remaining Jewish population to Israel. The failure to do so has left some families separated for long years.