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Minister Sheetrit. Worrying data Photo: Niv Calderon
Minister Sheetrit. Worrying data Photo: Niv Calderon
 
New olim arrive in Israel. Many non-Jews Photo: Reuters
New olim arrive in Israel. Many non-Jews Photo: Reuters
 
 

Law of Return to be revised

Interior Minister Sheetrit appoints special committee to discuss refining law which he says has been abused, allowing 'people that have nothing to do with Judaism' to receive automatic Israeli citizenship. Interior Ministry says 1 million illegal immigrants living in Israel

Nurit Felter
Published: 02.23.09, 11:04 / Israel Jewish Scene

Hundreds of thousands of non-Jews have received Israeli citizenship over the past decade under the Law of Return, which has led Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit and his colleagues to believe the law should either be revised or abolished.

 

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A special committee, headed by Professor Yaakov Ne'eman has been appointed to discuss the sensitive issue on how to possibly amend the law, that allows all offspring of a Jew, including a grandchild, automatic Israeli citizenship.

 

On Sunday the interior minister told members of the committee, "The Law of Return is an anachronistic law through which people that have nothing to do with Judaism receive citizenship."

 

The committee appointed by Sheetrit includes some of the top legal experts on immigration. A number of alternative courses of action will be presented to the committee besides annulling the law.

 

One of the alternatives is amending the law so that new immigrants do not receive automatic citizenship upon arrival, but only receive a resident status.

 

Only after proving, over the course of a few years, their ties to the Jewish people, knowledge of the Hebrew language and loyalty to the State, will the immigrants receive Israeli citizenship.

 

Redefining the Law of Return is not the only problem facing the members of the new committee. In recent days the Interior Ministry presented the members with data of some 1 million illegal immigrants residing in Israel.

 

According to the data, some 30% of the residents of the southern town of Eilat are non-Jews. After hearing this numbers, Sheetrit warned on Sunday, "If we do not discuss these issues with urgency, in a few years Israel will no longer be the state of the Jews, and I do not want that.

 

Demographic struggle  

"We will decide once and for all who is allowed to live here. Anyone allowed to live here must take an oath of loyalty to the State. This is an imperative rule. Holland legislated such a law after the wave of Muslim immigration that threatened to alter the country's character."

 

Sheetrit said the demographic struggle called for the limitation of the number of non-Jewish foreigners entering Israel. Non-Jews in Israel include Palestinians entering the State by virtue of family reunification or marriage to Israeli Arabs, foreign workers, illegal labor immigrants and non-Jewish olim.

 

The data presented to the committee further showed that some 25,000 African infiltrators live in Israel, with only 600 of them being actual refugees from Darfur, tens of thousands of Palestinian woman married to Bedouins and allowed to reside in Israel, 16,000 Palestinian women living in the West Bank but receiving welfare from the State, and 46,000 Falash Mura Ethiopians that include many Christians.

 

Age limit for citizenship?

Head of the new committee, Prof. Ne'eman is aware of the responsibility bestowed upon him and his colleagues from the start of their work last weekend.

 

"We are, without a doubt, dealing with one of the most important issues on the agenda of shaping the face of the State," Ne'eman said on Sunday, "We will convene every week and examine the matter in depth."

 

The new citizenship and immigration laws to be determined by the committee will be based on the recommendations of a prior committee of experts headed by Professor Amnon Rubenstein.

 

Three years ago the committee submitted a proposal to the Interior Ministry to tighten Israel's immigration policy.

 

Among other things, the committee recommended an age limit be placed on the citizenship of non-Jews marrying Israelis.

 

On Sunday Rubenstein told Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper that, "We certainly need an immigration policy that we are lacking, and the fact that this hasn't happened yet is a serious setback."

 

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