Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
PM-designate Benjamin Netanyahu and Religious Zionism Chairman Bezalel Smotrich in the Knesset plenum, December 20, 2022.

According to a Religious Zionism press release, the finalized coalition agreements between Bezalel Smotrich’s party and Likud include “legislative amendments in light of the difficulties and loopholes created by the grandson clause of the Law of Return.”

The Law of Return gives people with one or more Jewish grandparents, and their spouses the right to relocate to Israel and acquire Israeli citizenship. The original version, made into law in July 1950, states simply: “Every Jew has the right to come to this country as an Oleh.” But from that moment until the law was amended in 1970, it wasn’t clear “who is a Jew?”


Since 1970, the amended Law of Return applies to the following groups:

  • Those born Jewish according to the Orthodox interpretation and have a Jewish mother.
  • Those with Jewish ancestry – a Jewish father or grandfather.
  • Converts to Judaism (Orthodox, Reform, or Conservative denominations—not secular—though Reform and Conservative conversions must take place outside the state, similar to civil marriages).

Important note: Jews who converted to another religion are not eligible under the Law of Return, even though they are still Jews according to halakha.

According to the coalition agreement between Likud and Religious Zionism, the second clause, allowing a gentile whose grandfather was Jewish to make Aliyah and enjoy all the benefits afforded to Jews, will be amended no later than March 31, 2022. Also, the text of the bill to amend the Law of Return must be agreed upon no later than February 28, 2023.

Remember how Bezalel Smotrich sentenced Benjamin Netanyahu to a year and a half in exile on the opposition benches because he wouldn’t hear about accepting Ra’am, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, into any coalition government he would be part of? If anything could make Netanyahu government collapse, it would likely be over this item.

In a recent interview on the American NBC network, Prime Minister-designate Netanyahu insisted there would be no change in the grandson clause, but conceded that he agreed to discuss it. Netanyahu has torpedoed every attempt in the past to do away with the grandson clause which so far has “blessed” the Jewish State of Israel with an estimated half a million goyim––most of them from the former Soviet republics––who have no desire to convert to their grandfather’s alleged faith.

“There will be a long and in-depth discussion, but I doubt there will be any change,” Netanyahu told NBC. “It will require an in-depth discussion––you don’t do it overnight. You know, I’ve always looked for ‘creativity’ on these issues, as well as to help with conversion issues, and I’ve always tried to think of solutions outside the box.”

Maybe. The designated PM is worried about Israel’s relations with diaspora Jews, although his main concern is not Russians and Ukrainians––the biggest source of gentile Israelis, but American and European Jews, for whom the problem hardly exists. To them, it’s more a principle – a lot like securing a Reform piece of real estate by the Kotel, even though they hardly ever visit there.

Trust me, in two months, Bezalel Smotrich is going to submit a bill amending the Law of Return to yank out all the halakhic goyim––for now not including Americas who converted at their local Reform temple. And should Netanyahu flex his muscles believing Smotrich has too much to lose to walk out of their coalition – he’ll be watching Smotrich’s back as the door flaps shut behind it.

Remember: the reason Netanyahu has been so exceedingly generous with his five coalition partners (Shas, Otzma Yehudit, Religious Zionism, United Torah Judaism, and Noam) is that he has more to lose than they do. At most, they would end up in the opposition, working on their next campaigns. At most, he will end up in Israel’s white-collar Maasiyahu Prison, like his predecessor Ehud Olmert. He is still facing three criminal indictments, and without the help of his partners, most legal analysts in Israel say he will probably do some time.

It’s not always so good to be the king…

Young Russian olim at the Putin Bar in Jerusalem. / Anna Kaplan/ Flash90

The Israeli Immigration Policy Center, a right-wing think tank, couldn’t be happier at the announcement. They issued a statement saying: “After many months of putting together the coalition to amend the Law of Return, the move is now being implemented. The goal before our eyes is to end the absurd situation in which immigration to Israel creates a demographic deficit for the Jewish majority. The data we revealed to the elected officials have led to the fact that no one is left who does not understand the need for an amendment to the Law of Return.”

Alex Rief, CEO of the 1 Million Lobby, an NGO promoting the opposite view, told News12 on Thursday, “Instead of focusing on those who are already here and their difficulties, they prefer to add another slap in the face to the existing reality. It’s simply focusing attention on the wrong place and my friends feel like second-class citizens.”

“In the studies, we’ve done, 94% of Russian-speaking Israelis who are not Jews according to halakha tell us that they feel and identify as Jews. Instead of bringing them together, and being happy about these data, and even offering more respectful conversion paths to those who are interested, these delusional proposals will simply divide the Jewish people even more.”

Here’s a halakhic question for you: can a gentile trans woman who identifies as a man and as a Jew become ordained as an Orthodox rabbi?

According to Rief, 70 thousand olim have arrived from Ukraine and Russia over the past few months and qualified to attain Israeli citizenship. She wouldn’t say how many of them are complete gentiles.


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