Criminal background checks for immigrants now standard, other gaps remain

Although all new immigrants must now present a criminal background check to make aliyah, other holes remain which can be abused by sex offenders to gain entry to Israel.

Hundreds of Border Police officers took part in the large-scale operation. (photo credit: POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Hundreds of Border Police officers took part in the large-scale operation.
(photo credit: POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
The most recent case of a Jewish immigrant to Israel caught up in allegations of sexual abuse has highlighted once again the potential for misuse of the Law of Return by individuals who wish to leave past criminal convictions behind them or whose deeds have not yet caught up with them.
On Friday, The Jerusalem Post reported on Rabbi Marcelo Krawiec, an immigrant from Argentina who is now wanted in that country on suspicion of sexual abuse of a minor.
There have been several high profile cases of Diaspora Jews coming to Israel to avoid legal proceedings in their country of origin, such as Rabbi George Finkelstein who allegedly abused children at Yeshiva University, Jimmy Karrow, and others.
According to the Magen Jewish Community organization there are around 55 new immigrants to Israel from around the Jewish world who have been convicted of sex offenses, were on trial, or under investigation in their country of origin who successfully made aliyah over the last decade.
In addition, there are dozens more such individuals who made aliyah in previous years.
The Israel Police has no registry for sex offenders who committed their crimes abroad and therefore such people live in the Jewish state without any possibility of preventing them from working with or otherwise coming into contact with minors and other vulnerable groups.
According to official statements from the Population and Immigration Authority of the Interior Ministry and the Jewish Agency, all immigrants have been required to provide criminal background checks in order to get their immigration approved since 2010.
But organizations involved in immigration and those involved in combating child sex abuse have said that criminal background checks were not required until April 2020.
Two sources with knowledge of the matter told The Jerusalem Post that the Jewish Agency had not automatically required criminal background checks until last year.
And five new immigrants contacted by the Post who made aliyah between January 2018 and January 2020 all stated that they had not been requested to provide a criminal background check.
In April 2020, procedures for making aliyah were however updated by the Population and Immigration Authority and the Jewish Agency requiring criminal background checks for all immigrants, although the changes were not formalized in government regulations.
These background checks are obtained by the immigrant candidate through the police or other law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI in the US, and included in the aliyah file provided to the Jewish Agency for approval of the immigration application.
This procedure is therefore able to prevent those who have been convicted of sex offenses from making aliyah.
However, it would not stop immigrants who committed sex offenses but who have not yet faced criminal proceedings or been convicted.
A further problem is that even if an immigrant would disclose a criminal background the interior ministry would not be required to deny their aliyah request, although it is at liberty to do so.
In addition, short term tourist visas or long-term residency visas can be obtained without criminal background checks.
One solution to some of these issues would be to revoke the citizenship of anyone who in an affidavit, required before criminal background checks were enforced, lied about their criminal history.
Fixing these issues will likely require legislation which could prove legally difficult to formulate and would take time to enact.