Israel Beiteinu, Shas upset over Sheetrit

Angered over new interior minister's plans to change laws governing aliya, marriage eligibility.

meir sheetrit 88 298 (photo credit: Courtesy Photo)
meir sheetrit 88 298
(photo credit: Courtesy Photo)
The coalition faced new problems on Sunday when Israel Beiteinu and Shas expressed anger over new Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit's plans to change the laws governing who is eligible to make aliya and to get married in the country. Sheetrit said in an interview with Yediot Aharonot on Friday that he wanted to amend the Law of Return so that immigrants who are not halachicly Jewish would not be able to enter the country automatically according to the law. He said he was shocked to learn that 70 percent of recent immigrants from the former Soviet Union were not Jews according to Halacha. "On immigration issues, I am planning an upheaval," Sheetrit said. "The time has come to bring only Jews to Israel. If we don't deal with such issues immediately, in a few years Israel will cease to be a Jewish state." Sheetrit also expressed skepticism regarding the Falash Mura coming from Ethiopia and "other tribes that are willing to become Jewish to enter the country." He said he was afraid of a chain reaction that would allow all of Ethiopia to move to Israel and put undue pressure on the state's resources. Sheetrit also said he would work to institute mandatory loyalty oaths for new citizens as well as tests about Israel's history and language, as is commonly done in the United States and other countries. Sources in Israel Beiteinu close to party chairman Avigdor Lieberman expressed outrage at Sheetrit's ideas and said if he implemented them, the party would have to "reconsider its future." They said instead of targeting immigrants, he should focus on Israeli Arabs and make it illegal for funding to reach the Islamic Movement. "If Sheetrit wants a Jewish and Zionist state, he is not going in the right direction," a source close to Lieberman said. "He should make Arabs like [former MK] Azmi Bishara pass a loyalty oath, and not immigrants. "The immigrants are faithful citizens who pass the tests of loyalty by getting killed in disproportionate numbers serving the state in the IDF. Instead of accusing the immigrants of being a fifth column, he should help them acclimate into the country and allow them to marry." Sheetrit said he wanted to pass a law that would allow people who cannot get married according to Halacha to register as a married couple. He said it was "absurd" that Israelis fly to Cyprus to get married to bypass the law in Israel. Passing such a law would also allow homosexuals to receive the benefits of married couples. Sheetrit said that when he was construction and housing minister, he allowed homosexual couples to receive mortgage benefits as if they were married. Shas officials said that according to the coalition agreement, changing the status quo on matters of religion and state cannot be done without Shas's approval. They said Shas would veto any attempt by Sheetrit to recognize homosexuals as married couples.