Bezalel Smotrich and Benjamin Netanyahu
Bezalel Smotrich and Benjamin NetanyahuYonatan Sindel/Flash90

Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu's mandate to form a government expired at midnight on Wednesday -- just eighteen minutes prior to the deadline, the Likud leader announced that he had succeeded in his task. On Thursday, it emerged that last-minute talks that ironed out the remaining key differences between the parties centered on the Law of Return, which all the parties of the incoming government have committed to amend by March 31st, 2023.

Furthermore, the parties have agreed that the wording of the bill will be determined by a committee composed of members of all of the coalition parties, within 60 days of the government's swearing-in.

Article 53 of the coalition agreement with UTJ states: "In light of the need to realize the purpose of the Law of Return and to bring Jews to Israel; in light of the distribution and characteristics of the immigration in recent years; in light of the difficulties and loopholes that the Grandchild Clause of the Law of Return creates; and due to the need to prevent assimilation in Israel and to prevent the abuse of the rights that the state grants to immigrants by people who return to their country of origin shortly after immigrating, the required amendments will be made to support a proper immigration policy by the time that the 2023 budget is passed." A similar clause appears in the agreement between the Likud and Religious Zionism.

The Center for Immigration Policy, which promoted the demand for amending the Law of Return, congratulated the parties on the agreements: "After long months of working to form a coalition to amend the Law of Return, the move is being implemented. Our goal is to stop the absurd situation in which immigration causes a demographic decline of the Jewish majority. Thanks to the statistics which we presented to the elected officials, there's no one who doesn't understand the need to amend the Law of Return."

Just today, the Jewish Agency presented data relating to immigration that it portrayed as a success story, without commenting on the fact that an overwhelming majority of those immigrating to Israel over the past year are not Jewish, nor do they even pretend to be.

Data on immigration from Eastern Europe paints a dramatic picture of how the Law of Return has failed its stated purpose in repatriating Jews to the Holy Land. In 1989, after the Iron Curtain fell, 93 percent of those immigrating to Israel were Jewish. Just four years later, that figure had dropped to 72 percent; by the turn of the century, less than half of those gaining citizenship via the Law of Return were Jewish.

Two years ago, in 2020, the number was down still further - just 28 percent of immigrants to Israel were Jewish. And of the refugees from both Russia and Ukraine arriving in the country since war broke out there, under a third are Jews.

Furthermore, over the entire 30-year period since immigration from the former Soviet bloc countries began, just 22 thousand non-Jewish immigrants to Israel have converted to Judaism, while each and every year, one-and-a-half times this number of non-Jews enters the country.