Religious parties to demand reforms to Law of Return as coalition bargaining chip

Their demand is to cancel the ‘grandson clause,’ which states that even a person who is the grandchild of a Jew can immigrate to Israel.

MK BEZALEL Smotrich addresses the Knesset plenum. The unusual state of Israeli politics has highlighted the attraction of its extremities, says the writer (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
MK BEZALEL Smotrich addresses the Knesset plenum. The unusual state of Israeli politics has highlighted the attraction of its extremities, says the writer
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

The religious and haredi parties will demand an amendment of the Law of Return as part of the coalition negotiations, according to a report.

The demand is to cancel the “grandchild clause,” which states that a person who is a third-generation Jew can immigrate to Israel. This possible amendment will mainly affect olim from former Soviet Union countries, but also on those from Western countries who aren’t halachically Jewish.

Religious Zionist Party chairman Bezalel Smotrich and the ultra-Orthodox parties will demand from Benjamin Netanyahu to make significant changes in the Law of Return as part of the coalition negotiations, Channel 13 reported on Tuesday.

Yisrael Beytenu’s Avigdor Liberman shot back at RZP and the haredi parties.

This is a “divorce certificate” for Jewish Diaspora, he told Army Radio on Wednesday. The thousands of soldiers who came to Israel based on the grandchild clause were “far more Jewish” than haredi students at yeshivot, he added.

“There are things that should not be touched – the anthem, flag, national insignia. The Law of Return is one of those things,” Liberman said.

 Head of the Israel Beyteinu party Avigdor Liberman speaks to supporters as the results of the exit polls of the Israeli elections are announced, at the party's campaign headquarters in Modi'in, November 1, 2022. (credit: FLASH90) Head of the Israel Beyteinu party Avigdor Liberman speaks to supporters as the results of the exit polls of the Israeli elections are announced, at the party's campaign headquarters in Modi'in, November 1, 2022. (credit: FLASH90)

Diaspora Minister Nachman Shai tweeted that the proposal “is ridiculous and harmful.”

“This is an ugly attempt to harm their right to come to the State of Israel and live in it,” he said.

Shai said “the very proposal, on a day when the world commemorates Kristallnacht, indicates a fundamental lack of understanding of the relationship between Israel and the Jewish people in the Diaspora. The Law of Return is one of the cornerstones of the State of Israel, the state of the Jewish people.

Labor MK Gilad Kariv said the demand is a “declaration of war on Diaspora Jewry and an attack on the foundations of Zionism.”

If Netanyahu crosses this redline, he will be written in the pages of the history of the Jewish people as the one who severed the connection between the State of Israel and world Jewry.”

In favor of a stricter policy

On the flip side, the Israeli Immigration Policy Center congratulated RZP and the haredi parties’ efforts: “It constitutes a major loophole for massive and legal non-Jewish immigration. Recently, an attempt has been made to expand it. Closing the loophole has become a critical goal in recent years to stop the trend of shrinking the Jewish majority in Israel and to ensure the future of the State of Israel as a Jewish state.”

UTJ MK Uri Maklev told 103FM, “We think that taking a family that has been living as distinctly Christian for two generations and saying that [they are Jewish] because they had a Jewish grandfather three generations back – is something that needs to be corrected.”

One Million Lobby CEO Alex Rif responded, calling Maklev a “kidnapper” of Israeli law.

“Your statements are full of ignorance – how long will we have false claims and accusations of Christianity? The vast majority of us have no other identity. We are Jews for all intents and purposes.”

She added that Maklev “is trying to cover up the truly significant failure of the Chief Rabbinate, which failed to open the gates of conversion in an inclusive way to 400,000 Russian-speaking Israelis, so that they would stop being second-class Israelis.”

Eliav Breuer contributed to this report.