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Foreign views of the US: Turnabout is fair play

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on October 31, 2007

Meir Sheetrit, the Interior Minister of Israel, was pilloried by the press and fellow politicians after suggesting that the state should end its policy offering automatic citizenship for all Jews worldwide.

From the Jerusalem Post:

Appearing at the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors meeting in Jerusalem on Tuesday, Sheetrit said he believed “Israel should no longer grant automatic citizenship to Jews.”

He explained that “Israel should become like every other country. I want to see that [the immigrant] is not a criminal, that he’s learning Hebrew; that he’s here for five years before getting citizenship.”

The interior minister also called for more careful filtering of those allowed to enter the country.

“Don’t go finding me any lost tribes, because I won’t let them in anymore,” he declared. “We have enough problems in Israel. Let them go to America.”

[emphasis added]

Although apparently not representing the majority opinion of Israelis (or else the brazenly phrased remarks would not have made the front page or sparked walkouts by political committee members), Sheetrit’s argument reveals two salient facts:

1. Immigration/asylum/citizenship policy is a sensitive and unresolved issue in Israel (the Law of Return does indeed have major problems).

2. Sheetrit (and presumably some of his intended audience members as well) instinctively associates the United States of America with extremely generous immigration and citizenship laws. Not exactly how I imagined the US to be perceived, even by a dissident politician in a moderately-to-very pro-American nation.

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