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Far-right parties backtrack their demand to amend Israel’s Law of Return in exchange for joining Netanyahu’s coalition

Religious Zionism, ultra-Orthodox parties previously insisted on tightening Israel’s immigration laws by abolishing the 'grandchild clause'

United Torah Judaism MKs Yitzchak Goldknopf and Moshe Gafni at a vote in the plenum session at the Knesset assembly hall in Jerusalem, Dec. 20, 2022. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In a position reversal, Israel’s two ultra-Orthodox parties and the Religious Zionism party withdrew an earlier demand to tighten Israel’s immigration rules by cutting automatic citizenship rights to non-Jewish grandchildren of Jews. 

The parties placed the demand on the table as part of their price for joining Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition. The demand would have amended the Law of Return, which grants automatic Israeli citizenship to Jews and their second- and third-generation descendants who immigrate to the country. 

A 1970 amendment to the law extended this right to non-Jewish children, grandchildren and spouses. 

According to a Monday report by the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation, KAN, negotiators representing Netanyahu’s Likud party convinced the far-right representatives to give up the demand, albeit not completely. 

Under their agreement, a new committee to examine the “grandchild clause” would be established to discuss the implications of a potential change. However, the coalition agreement would not include any provision or language that contains either modification or cancellation of the clause. 

At the heart of the dispute over the Law of Return lies a concern about the Jewish character of the nation of Israel. Some on the right, including Knesset Member Simcha Rothman from Religious Zionism party, who spoke to ALL ISRAEL NEWS, warned that allowing too many non-Jews into the country could threaten the Jewish majority in Israel and detract from the Law of Return’s purpose.  

Israel’s Arutz Sheva news reported on data indicating that some Eastern European countries have as high as 75% non-Jewish immigration to Israel. The news site notes that the Likud party is concerned that changes to the law would sway right-wing voters to support Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party, which is popular among immigrants from former Soviet countries.

Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.

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