In a case of new immigrants versus the more established immigrants, Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver caused an already heated Knesset Committee meeting to get out of control.
Speaking at a Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee meeting on discrimination against the Ethiopian community in Kiryat Malachi, Landver told an Ethiopian social activist: "Say thank you for what you got."
Her statements came in response to those made by the social activist, Gadi Yiberkan, who called the MKs hypocrites and said: "You have created a 21st Century version of Apartheid in Israel."
Landver then replied: "While you hand out marks you need to understand that the State of Israel invests a lot in this matter," and stressed "Say thank you for what you got." MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) then joined the argument, screaming at Yiberkan: "When they were speaking against haredim no one said a word, I wish I was Ethiopian."
The Ethiopian community is angered by what they believe is the racist behavior of Kiryat Malachi's established residents who are unwilling to rent out or sell them apartments. Some of the residents have even signed contracts under which they have made a commitment not to sell or rent out apartments to members of the Ethiopian community.
Members of the Ethiopian community and their supporters numbering in the thousands demonstrated against the discrimination in Kiryat Malachi on Tuesday night.
Speaking at the Knesset meeting, Committee Chairman MK Danny Danon (Likud) said: The Kiryat Malachi case is a warning bell but it isn't the only case. We want to come out of the committee meeting not just with platitudes and empathy but with decisions on the legislative level."
Danon announced his intention to promote a legislation package that would aggravate punishment and declare racial discrimination as a criminal offense with a NIS 100,000 ($26,000) fine and up to six months imprisonment.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's bureau announced that Netanyahu has directed his advisor on Ethiopian affairs Allali Admaso to act to strike out against the phenomenon of racism against Ethiopian immigrants.
Admaso met on Tuesday night with the organizers of the demonstration. According to the bureau, the prime minister stressed that "racist phenomenon are inciting and have no place in Israeli society."
Attila Somfalvi contributed to the report