Israel's haredi parties won't immediately demand Law of Return change

The Likud Party convinced its coalition partners to establish a committee to discuss the Grandchild Clause and reach conclusions in the coming term.

 Benjamin Netanyahu looks at Shas leader MK Aryeh Deri as they stand with other members of the new Israeli parliament after their swearing-in ceremony in Jerusalem November 15, 2022.  (photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)
Benjamin Netanyahu looks at Shas leader MK Aryeh Deri as they stand with other members of the new Israeli parliament after their swearing-in ceremony in Jerusalem November 15, 2022.
(photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)

The ultra-Orthodox parties have decided to stop demanding the amendment of the Grandchild Clause of the Law of Return, despite their demand to cancel it in recent weeks, according to a report by Israel’s KAN public broadcasting on Monday.

According to the report, the Likud Party managed to convince the partner parties in the coalition to establish a committee to discuss the Grandchild Clause and formulate conclusions regarding it during the term itself. In addition, the Likud hasn’t agreed to include any texts that modify or cancel the clause in the coalition agreement.

Ynet reported that there was an apparent compromise according to which permanent residency status would be granted to those who currently are eligible to become Israeli citizens since they are grandchildren of a Jew - even though they aren’t considered Jewish themself.

The compromise was offered by Neria Meir, head of the Diaspora Affairs department of the World Zionist Organization and a member of the Likud Party. The Likud opposed this offer as well.

The ultra-Orthodox parties understood that they cannot insist on all of their demands and decided to give up their demand for the amendment of the Law of Return for the time being. Their main focus is to fight for the rights of their constituents and therefore will neglect this initiative, which was originally pushed by the Religious Zionist Party (RZP) leader Bezalel Smotrich. 

UNITED TORAH Judaism leader Moshe Gafni (right) with health minister Yaakov Litzman in party headquarters on election night, in Givat Shmuel on March 2, 2020 (credit: ROY ALIMA/ FLASH 90)UNITED TORAH Judaism leader Moshe Gafni (right) with health minister Yaakov Litzman in party headquarters on election night, in Givat Shmuel on March 2, 2020 (credit: ROY ALIMA/ FLASH 90)

"The pressure has succeeded"

Senior Israeli diplomatic figures have told The Jerusalem Post that “the pressure has succeeded,” and that “hopefully the discussions on the matter of the Law of Return will take place in a civilized and respectable way in the Knesset.” 

The Likud's negotiation partners – Shas, United Torah Judaism, Religious Zionist Party, Otzma Yehudit and Noam – are all led by religious men and other than Otzma Yehudit are entirely Orthodox. The parties, therefore, view a Jew as someone born to a Jewish mother.

In an interview to NBC two weeks ago, prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu said that he will not change the Law of Return. “It's going to be a big debate, but I have pretty firm views,” Netanyahu said in the interview. He added that he doubts “we'll have any changes.” He continued by saying that “you don't just come off and do these things.”

President Isaac Herzog has been quoted a few times in the past few weeks hinting towards the need for both Diaspora Jews and the Israeli government to be sensitive and promote unity, as opposed to creating chaos. “Israel is the insurance policy of the Jewish people,” he said in one of his speeches. Herzog, the former chairman of the Jewish Agency and a politician with deep ties to the Jewish world, was also instrumental in promoting a peaceful solution. 

Many Jewish leaders from the diaspora have approached Netanyahu and asked him to ignore the demands made by his future coalition partners regarding the Law of Return.

“If they change the Law of Return and Israel’s world-class judiciary system, all these things will impact [the relationship with American Jews] dramatically.”

Abe Foxman

“If they change the Law of Return and Israel’s world-class judiciary system, all these things will impact [the relationship with American Jews] dramatically,” former ADL CEO Abe Foxman told the Post in an interview on the matter. “If Israel becomes a fundamentalist religious state, a theocratic nationalism state, it will cut Israel off from 70% of world Jewry, who won’t qualify into their definition of ‘who is a Jew.’ According to [Religious Zionist Party chairman Bezalel] Smotrich and [Noam chairman Avi] Maoz, I won’t qualify as being a Jew,” Foxman said.

“The Law of Return is a bedrock of Zionism,” said the head of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in a conference, according to Times of Israel. “Our forebears took the Nuremberg laws and said if one grandparent was enough to kill you, it’s enough to let you in.”

In addition, the Post has learned that many Israeli embassies such as London and Washington DC have passed on extreme concerns on how the amendment of the Law of Return will dramatically affect the relationship between these countries and Israel.

A senior leader of a Jewish organization in the diaspora told the Post on Monday that “we commend prime minister-elect Netanyahu for his decision to create a discussion on the matter of the Law of Return and not include it in the coalition agreements. Netanyahu has displayed immense leadership that should be applauded.”

Eliav Breuer contributed to this report.