Israel’s new interior minister urged a major reform of immigration law.
Meir Sheetrit, who took over the Interior Ministry this month as part of a Cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said in a weekend newspaper interview that current Israeli immigration policies are too porous and thus threaten the country’s Jewish majority.
“In the area of immigration, I will lead a revolution. We have reached the point of no return,” Sheetrit told Yediot Acharonot. “I recommend that we hold a debate on the Law of Return and see what can be done with it. Today the law grants any grandchild of a Jew, even if he or she is not Jewish, the right to immigrate. We should give that some thought.”
Sheetrit complained that the “great majority” of recent immigrants from the former Soviet Union are not Jewish under Orthodox law, and lay part of the blame at the feet of the government for ceding responsibility for aliya to semi-autonomous and pro-active groups like the Jewish Agency for Israel.
“The starting position has to be not what these groups want, but what is right for the state,” he said.
Sheetrit called for aspiring Israeli citizens to be screened for criminal records and said they should be required to demonstrate knowledge about the Jewish state. He also suggested that Israel stop working so hard to bring in immigrants.
“If we build up the quality of life here, even Jews from wealthy nations will immigrate. I want to make Israel a country that it is good to live in, on whose doors many Jews will knock. We should not be pressuring Jews into coming,” he said.