As the U.S. prepares to halt its refugee program under the new Trump administration, Israel is set to grant asylum to 100 Syrian children orphaned by the Middle Eastern country’s civil war, according to reports.
“This is a just and important decision,” Itzik Shmuli, an opposition member of parliament, told Israel Radio this week. “The government should be congratulated.”
At present, the plan, which is reportedly being drawn up by Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, is only considering bringing in 100 refugees, though millions have fled to nearby countries over the course of Syria’s six-year civil war.
Israel has reached out to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for assistance in identifying refugees for asylum. Israel has allowed more than 2,600 Syrians in for medical care, set up a field hospital along the border and sent limited aid into Syria, but the Jewish nation has in the past kept its doors closed to permanent refugees.
However, on Thursday, Israeli government officials confirmed news reports about the historic move, which is still in preliminary phases but comes as the Jewish state is still technically caught in a state of war with Syria, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Moti Kahana, an Israeli American businessman who has been urging government officials to accept Syrian refugees for some time and has started a nonprofit, Amaliah, to aid Syrians still in the country, praised the recent decision. However, he said Israel needs to do more.
“The Israeli people woke up when Aleppo collapsed,” he said. “Why from Aleppo, because it sounds good politically? There are people 200 meters from the Israeli border.”
Some, though, see the move as nothing more than a political stunt by the Israeli government. Eyal Zisser, a political science professor at Tel Aviv University, said the plans are largely symbolic.
“The minister wants to show empathy and show he’s doing something,” he said. “The main issue here is that 100 is really nothing. It’s to show Israel’s nice face to the world and to address Israeli public opinion.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had previously rejected the idea of bringing refugees into his country, claiming it was too small to accommodate an influx of Syrians, but after continued pressure to do so, he has started to explore the possibility.
Israel’s Channel 10 News reported that Netanyahu’s government is considering allowing the refugees to become permanent residents and may accept immediate family members as well.
All of this comes after news leaked that President Donald Trump plans to impose a 120-day moratorium on the United States’ refugee resettlement program — a move that has sparked backlash from a number of faith groups over the past 48 hours.
As TheBlaze reported Thursday, the president of World Relief, one of the few evangelical organizations approved by the U.S. government to resettle refugees, condemned the White House’s expected freeze.
“We disagree [with] the notion that security and compassion are mutually exclusive and that the only way to address security is to completely close down the program for four months,” Scott Arbeiter told TheBlaze.