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Proposed legislation set to be debated in the Knesset next week could provide automatic citizenship to thousands of non-Jewish children of new immigrant families, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
The potential law, which was already rejected by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation three years ago, will be re-submitted to the committee as a private members bill by Yisrael Beiteinu MK Robert Ilatov on November 25th.
"[Ilatov] believes that it is unfair to force any child to live here without essential rights or a clear identity," a spokeswoman for Ilatov told the Post on Monday. "It causes problems with the absorption process for new immigrants and stops them from becoming part of society."
According to the Association for the Rights of Mixed Families - a non-government body that lobbies for the rights of mixed Jewish/non-Jewish families in Israel - roughly 6500 children of Israeli citizens live here without clear national status. Some even serve in the IDF without being granted full-blown citizenship.
This dubious status is held by two main groups of immigrant children - those who are fourth-generation Jews, i.e. they have a Jewish great-grandfather and are not entitled to automatic citizenship like their parents (4000 children); and children from a Jewish Israeli's non-Jewish spouse's previous marriage, neither of whose biological parents were Jews (2500 children).
"If a family makes aliya together, then it's far more straightforward," explained Shachar. "However, if they arrive here separately, for whatever reason, that's when the problems [from the Interior Ministry] begin."
"We believe that this is an extremely important issue for thousands of immigrant families," said Ilatov's spokeswoman, highlighting the plight of many immigrants from the Former Soviet Union who married Jews and moved to Israel, but whose close relatives - such as parents or siblings - are not entitled citizenship. "Focusing on the children is the first step in dealing with this issue."
She said that the Interior Ministry and the religious parties have traditionally opposed this type of legislation.
However, both the Association for the Rights of Mixed Families and Ilatov's camp are confident of finding enough support to pass the bill's initial reading on Wednesday. Shachar said that so far, all 11 MKs from Yisrael Beiteinu were planning to vote for the legislation, as well as politicians from Meretz, Labor, Kadima and the Gil Pensioners Party.