As you for sure have heard, Benjamin Netanyahu notified the president on December 26th that he succeeded in forming a government. The new government was voted in at the Knesset this afternoon, December 29th.
The new government, consists of 6 parties in total: Likud (32), Shas (11), Religious Zionism (7), United Torah Judaism (7), Otzma Yehudit (6) and Noam (1). These parties formed a coalition to build the Israeli government and their members will man the ministerial positions in the government.
The designated Minister of Interior (the minister who is in change of PIBA and their policies) is head of Shas party, Aryeh Deri, an ultra-orthodox Jew, that naturally holds conservative views. The law that allowed this appointment is currently being challenged at the Supreme Court and a final decision is yet to be made. It is important to note that Aryeh Deri was the Minister of Interior twice before, most recently under Bibi from January 2015 to June 2021.
How is this any different for us than before?
A bigger concern than the appointment of Deri as minister, is that radical xenophobic agendas have become a central topic in the new coalition. Following demands from members of the Religious Zionism Party, the coalition agreement includes a commitment of the government to “formulate a national and Zionist immigration policy” and “work to legislate the Basic Law of Immigration”.
In addition, the coalition agreements include a commitment of the government to preform “Legislative amendments” to the Law of Return, specifically to “the grandchild clause” (the section that grants grandchildren of Jews eligibility for Aliyah). The amendments are required because of “the need to prevent assimilation” (aka interfaith marriages between Jews and non-Jews), among other things.
It’s true that these agendas existed for a long time in the Israeli political map, but they were usually marginalized and attributed to radical parties who had almost no political power. Bibi’s 6th government brings these agendas to the “front of the stage”, and the politicians that are holding these views will have important positions and major political power.
What is the Basic Law of Immigration?
First signs of what this means to international couples in Israel (and foreigners in general) are already appearing. Last week, MK Simha Rotman (designated candidate to become the new chairman of the Constitution Committee), submitted a bill, “Basic Law: Entry, Immigration and Status in Israel”. The basic law proposal asks to regulate Israel’s immigration policy and puts down some basic guidelines for a complete immigration policy (Read the full bill here).
While our organization is in favor of determining Israel’s immigration policy in legislation (instead of vague PIBA protocols), the proposal that was submitted, and the reasoning behind it are concerning, to put it lightly.
The basic law proposal includes the following clauses, among others:
- The government will decide on a yearly quota of people who will be allowed to get a status in Israel (“status” being an approval to stay in Israel for more than one year).
- A person who stayed in Israel illegally for more than 3 months, will not be allowed to get a status in Israel.
- A person who isn’t an Israeli citizen or resident will not be allowed to appeal to court in regards to entry to Israel (they will only be allowed to appeal to the tribunal of appeals) unless the court decides this person deserves a status in Israel.
- It’ll be allowed to imprison illegal immigrants for the entire duration of stay in Israel.
These are just a few examples of the problematic clauses in this bill. It’s important to mention that people who are eligible for Aliyah are exempted from all of the of discriminative clauses in the bill.
The Members of Knesset who signed the bill are: Simha Rotman (Religious Zionism), Betzalel Smotrich (Religious Zionism), Amir Ohana (Likud), Yinon Azulai (Shas), Yitzhak Pindrus (United Torah Judaism) and Amihai Shikli (Likud).
This bill is one example of the xenophobic activism that the new government seems to have put as a main goal. The rising radical voices in the new government are not only posing a legal risk on our community, but a public one as well. The fact that these people and their racist views are being treated as legitimate, can only mean a more hostile environment in Israel towards our community. When coalition agreements are talking about the “need to prevent assimilation”, it’s only a matter of time until our families will face racism in the street, at the supermarket or at school.
What About the “Discrimination Law”?
If you’ve been following Israeli media, you probably heard about the outrageous remarks that MK Simha Rotman and MK Orit Struk made. MK Rotman said that an hotel owner can refuse to host a gay couple if it is hurting his religious beliefs. MK Struk said that it is forbidden to force a doctor to provide a service if it goes against his religious belief. These two remarks caused quite an outrage and even lead Bibi to release a statement against them.
Nonetheless, the requested “fix” the existing anti-discrimination law found its way into the coalition agreements, meaning that technically the new government is committed to promote it. According to the coalition agreements, the existing anti-discrimination law will be changed, so that private business owners will be allowed to refuse service to someone if giving the service contradicts with their religious views.
This proposal is yet another opening to racism and xenophobia in Israeli society.
What can we do?
In this political climate, it is crucial that our community will stand united and have a strong voice. It is crucial to show to the public and to the government that we exist, and that we will not allow them to hurt our basic rights. If the Basic Law of Immigrations is brought up to discussion in the Israeli parliament, it is more important than ever that we will be there to fight against any clause that might hurt us or our loved ones.
To make sure that our community’s voice is heard, we have already started arranging meetings with different members of the Knesset and the government. We will speak up about the existing issues, and be there to make a stand about new legislation that concerns us. We are also working with Israeli media in order to expose our community and the hardships we face to the Israeli public.
The Israeli Association for International Couples is brand new, but apparently we don’t get to enjoy any “grace period”. Without expecting it, in its first 3 months of existence the organization turns out to be needed more than ever.
If you support our activity, if you care about the community of international couples and its rights, please consider supporting the organization with a donation.