Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit has warned government ministers that a plan to approve the immigration of 1,000 non-Jewish Ethiopians to Israel “weakens the legal rationale” for denying Palestinian family reunification, reported Haaretz.
The Israeli authorities are seeking to allow the non-Jewish relatives of Falashmura – descendants of Ethiopian Jews who converted to Christianity – to join their children in Israel. As non-Jews, they have no automatic right to immigration.
In his letter to cabinet ministers, reported Haaretz, “Mendelblit cautioned that the plan was liable to result in discrimination against non-Jewish descendants of Jews from countries other than Ethiopia, who under Israeli law aren’t entitled to migrate to Israel for family unification either.”
“The more decisions made on the Ethiopian communities… the more the difference between their treatment and that of similar groups stands out, and the harder its legal justification becomes,” Mendelblit wrote, explaining that by “similar groups”, he meant “non-Jewish descendants of Jews and non-Israelis who come to the country to unite with their families”.
Haaretz added that “the attorney general suggested that the cabinet consider this a legal challenge, not a legal obstacle.”
Israel’s Law of Return gives Jews around the world and their non-Jewish family members the right to immigrate to Israel, with the rights of non-Jewish spouses, children and grandchildren enshrined in a 1970 amendment to the Law of Return.
“The legislation also applies to the children’s and grandchildren’s non-Jewish spouses – except for Jews who have voluntarily converted to another religion,” the paper explained.
The Citizenship and Entry Law, meanwhile, “puts limits on granting Israeli citizenship or residency to Palestinian family members of Israeli citizens”, also applying “to citizens of Iran, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq who seek status in Israel on the basis of family unification with Israeli citizens”.