Monday, November 29, 1999
Absorption Ministry considers limiting non-Jewish aliyahBy Yair Sheleg, Ha'aretz Correspondent
A recent Immigration and Absorption Ministry report is proposing a change in the Law of Return to reduce the number of non-Jews immigrating to Israel.
The report, which was prepared by a group of senior ministry officials as their final project while attending the Mendel school for senior state workers, includes proposals to allow immigration rights only to the non-Jewish children and spouses of Jews, but not their non-Jewish grandchildren, who may immigrate under the present law.
Under the changes, the grandchildren would be allowed to enter the country and become naturalized, but only within the framework of the Law of Entry, which is valid for everyone and does not grant automatic citizenship. Other proposals include:
* The adult children of non-Jewish grandchildren of Jews would not be allowed to immigrate, even under the Law of Entry, which currently allows even great grandchildren to enter.
* Only children born to new converts after their conversion would be eligible to immigrate under the Law of Return, which today allows all of the convert's children and grandchildren to immigrate.
* Part of the absorption financial package intended to help immigrants make ends meet would be allocated, with the immigrant's consent, to studying at ulpan and for Judaism classes in general.
* Naturalization for those entering under the Law of Entry would not be automatic, as is the case today, but would be granted only after the applicant passes a number of tests, including on the language, history, geography and politics of Israel.
In explaining their reasons for the proposed changes, the report's authors point to data on the rate of non-Jewish immigration from former Soviet Union countries. According to the officials, the percentage of non-Jews among immigrants of the former Soviet Union has consistently risen since the wave of mass aliyah began in 1989. During 1999, 57 percent of the immigrants were non-Jewish, and a sampling of 100 new immigrants found that 75 were not Jewish, and had arrived under the Law of Return.
The report also presents the case of a Jewish immigrant who "made ten non-Jewish family member eligible for immigration, five under the Law of Return, and the other five under the Law of Entry."
And there is more: A study of potential immigration of those still living in former Soviet countries showed that the number of remaining Jews stood at 540,000, while the number of persons eligible to immigrate was almost double that at 1,046,000.
The report's authors point out that the impetus to limit non-Jewish aliyah was the fear that this group would eventually align itself with non-Jewish citizens within the state and demand to change the Jewish character of the state.
Immigration and Absorption Minister Yuli Tamir said yesterday that "from a political standpoint, it's not possible to change the Law of Return today. It will cause so much instability as to be unviable" Later Tamir told Ha'aretz that she believed a change in the current law was not only unrealistic, but also improper, due to historic and ethical considerations
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