Knesset panel to give Sheetrit's Law of Return ideas a hearing

Interior minister caused a storm with call to cancel automatic citizenship for Jews.

Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit's suggestion to stop granting automatic citizenship to Jews is worthy of consideration, MK Michael Nudelman, head of the Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. Both lawmakers represent Kadima. "I would like to call Sheetrit in to discuss his ideas," said Nudelman, whose panel continually examines the hardships faced by new immigrants. "There might be some truth to what he said." Sheetrit told the Jewish Agency's Board of Governors in Jerusalem this week that "Israel should become like every other country" and grant citizenship on an individual basis, not simply because someone is a Jew. "I want to see that [the immigrant] is not a criminal, that he's learning Hebrew; that he's here for five years before getting citizenship," Sheetrit said. "We have to focus on the absorption" of olim already here "whose lives are miserable." "It might be worthwhile to check the commitment of new arrivals before granting them citizenship," Nudelman said. Asked whether his committee planned in the near future to discuss changes to the Law of Return, which allows anyone with a Jewish grandparent to make aliya, Nudelman said he would give Sheetrit a chance to present his case to the panel. "It's a big topic but it should definitely be one that is open for discussion," he said. Immigrant Absorption Minister Ya'acov Edri (Kadima) and Jewish agency representatives have tried to distance themselves from Sheetrit's comments, which angered many, including those involved in bringing to Israel groups of "lost" Jews such as the Falash Mura from Ethiopia and the Bnei Menashe from India. A spokesman for Sheetrit said he would present his philosophy on the Law of Return to the committee if asked to do so. Sheetrit made aliya from Morocco in 1957, Edri from Morocco in 1959, and Nudelman from Ukraine in 1991.