New immigrants from Ukraine (illustrative)
New immigrants from Ukraine (illustrative)Flash 90

The majority of Israelis are concerned about the number of non-Jews immigrating to Israel and granted automatic citizenship, causing the drop in the percentage of Israelis who are Jewish, a new poll showed.

The poll, conducted by Geocartography and published by Chotam, showed that 59% of the Israeli public supports amending the "grandchld clause" of the Law of Return so that anyone who is not Jewish will not be eligible to immigrate to Israel and receive immediate Israeli citizenship; just 41% of the public oppose such an amendment.

The poll also showed that 63% of the public are concerned about the drop in the percentage of Jewish residents of Israel due to the immigration of non-Jews who are granted immediate citizens' rights via the Law of Return, and just 37% are not concerned about the issue.

A full 62% of respondents agree that there is a threat to the State of Israel's continued existence as a Jewish state in light of the increase in the rate of immigration of eligible non-Jews; 38% do not believe such a threat exists.

Amital Bareli, CEO of Chotam, an organization dedicated to preserving the Jewish idenity of the Stte of Israel, responded to the results of the survey, saying, "We need to realize that around the world there are about 10 million people eligible under the Law of Return, who are not Jewish. Today, the Law of Return serves a purpose exactly opposite to the reason for which it was legislated: It has turned from something which preserves the Jewish majority in the State of Israel to something which harms the Jewish majority. On a demographic level, the Jewish majority in the country has lost 10% in the past few decades, and now it stands at just 74%. In the 50s, it was 89%."

"The immigration policy led by [MK Avigdor] Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) was to distribute Israeli passports to immigrants. Liberman laughed the entire way to the voting booth. Preserving the Jewish majority is also the basis for preserving the Jewish identity, and so we need to immediately deal with the Law of Return, as is written in the coalition agreements."

The Israel Democracy Institute describes the issue as follows:"The Law of Return was originally legislated in 1950, and the ‘Grandchild Clause’ was added to the law in 1970 as clause 4a. It stated that “all the rights afforded to Jews according to this law…”, meaning the rights offered to olim (new immigrants) including citizenship, 'are extended also to the child and grandchild of a Jew, the partners of Jews, their children’s partners, and their grandchildren’s partners – except for someone who willingly denounced their Jewish affiliation.' The law does not consider whether the Jewish grandparent in question is alive or if they too decided to immigrate to Israel. Immigrants seeking to move to Israel under this clause do not need to make any special request, but are granted citizenship automatically."

In effect, the grandchildren of a Jewish grandfather who married a non-Jew, whose children are therefore not Jewish halakhically and who also marry non-Jews so that there is only one Jewish person in their lineage two generations previous to their birth, may immigrate to Israel with no pre-conditions, become a citizen and receive financial immigration benefits. Many of these immigrants leave the country once their special rights are used up, and in fact, the Institute writes:"among non-Jewish FSU immigrants 24% leave within a year and 41% within two years."