Less than a day after Opposition Leader and Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu publicly downplayed the possibility Israel could amend its Law of Return, the Religious Zionist Party vowed it will continue to press for the removal of the “grandfather clause” from the law.
Passed in 1950, the Law of Return guarantees the legal right of members of recognized Jewish communities to immigrate to Israel and receive citizenship.
In 1970, Israel broadened the law, adding what has come to be known as the “grandfather clause,” enabling would-be immigrants with at least one Jewish grandparent, as well as the spouses of Jews, to claim Israeli citizenship.
While the number of non-Jews claiming Israeli citizenship under the grandfather clause was small in the 1970s and 1980s, it rose significantly during the wave of immigration from Eastern Europe in the 1990s and early 2000s.
All five of the Likud’s allied factions on the Right – including the Religious Zionist Party, Otzma Yehudit, Noam, Shas, and United Torah Judaism – have endorsed plans to amend the Law of Return and remove the grandfather clause.
Netanyahu, however, has refused to back the amendment, fearing such a change could anger American Jewish leaders.
On Sunday, Netanyahu told NBC News he was skeptical any changes to the Law of Return would be passed in his next government.
Religious Zionist Party chief Bezalel Smotrich pushed back, however, during an interview with Radio Kol Berama Monday morning, reiterating his party’s demand for the change.
“We will stand by this [demand]. This is one of the greatest threats to Israel in terms of demographics, in terms of the Jewish identity of the state, and in terms of assimilation.”
“It is a time bomb for Jewish society that we have to deal with. We are insisting on [the change], and we will continue to insist.”
In an apparent swipe at Netanyahu, Smotrich added: “I suggest we talk less and do more.”
Overnight, right-wing activists posted flyers across Jerusalem demanding that right-wing parties include the removal of the grandfather clause from the Law of Return as part of the coalition agreements before the formation of a new government.