Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli, a member of the Likud Party, said in an event in the US, that the new Israeli government is listening to the concerns of Jews in the Diaspora, particularly about proposed changes to the Law of Return.
In the comments, made on Thursday and quoted by JTA, Chikli said that while some proposed changes that worry Americans would happen slowly, any criticism is largely misplaced.
“There is a large alarm on the left, it’s obvious, and it affects dramatically most of the Jews who live here in America,” Chikli stated in a live interview with Israeli journalist and TV presenter Miri Michaeli.
“We had an election. The result was crystal clear. We were very honest with our agenda, and it is our responsibility to form this agenda,” he continued. “And it does not mean that we are not listening. We do listen, and I spent hours today, yesterday, to listen to Jewish leaders and what they have to say about the Law of Return, about the judicial changes, and everything. We’re listening to the criticism. We’re listening to the concerns. We care about it.”
The Likud’s coalition partners are seeking to amend the Law of Return to exclude the so-called Grandchild Clause, which allows anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent to immigrate to Israel and acquire citizenship with all the associated benefits, regardless of whether he or she is Jewish.
While the law was considered a key to Israel’s demographic future during the 1950s and 1960s – and again in the 1990s following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 – the “grandchild clause” has resulted in an expansion of non-Jewish immigration.
A report published earlier this week by the Center for Immigration Policy, Israel’s Jewish majority fell in 2022 by 0.3 points as a result of non-Jewish immigration, from 73.9% a year earlier to 73.6%.
Israel’s Jewish majority has declined by roughly 10% over the past 30 years, the report claimed, falling by an average of one-third of a point per year.
Much of that decline is due to rising rates of non-Jewish immigration, CIP said, noting that in 2022, an absolute majority of new immigrants to Israel were non-Jews.
In his remarks on Thursday, Chikli said he believed it was a problem for Israel’s identity that a decreasing percentage of immigrants from the former Soviet Union are connected to Judaism and many of them don’t stay in Israel for very long.
However, the new minister said any changes to Israel’s Law of Return would happen slowly and through a process that includes consultation with others.
“No one, no one is going to cancel the Law of Return, which is fundamental for the state of Israel,” Chikli said, according to JTA.
“We’re not saying we’re about to cancel Chapter Four tomorrow morning,” he added, referring to a technical name for the law. “That’s not what’s going to happen. What’s going to happen is there’s going to be a committee to determine how can we deal with this serious challenge. And as you see when you go into the details, that’s a challenge. We need Israel to be a strong Jewish state, and we need to tackle this challenge, and we’re going to do it slow. We’re going to do it by listening to all.”
(Israel National News' North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Israel National News articles, however, is Israeli time.)