Proposed Israeli Law Seeks to Restrict Foreign Passports for Repatriate

The Knesset approved the first reading of a proposed law on foreign passports, known as the “Hok Ha-Darkonim,” initiated by the government. The law aims to tighten the rules for obtaining a foreign passport by new immigrants (repatriates). The proposed amendment grants the Minister of Interior the right to refuse issuing a full foreign passport to a repatriate who has not established residency in Israel, limiting them to receiving a limited passport called “Lesse-Passe” (Teudat Maavar). Unlike a regular foreign passport that is valid for 10 years, the limited passport has a validity period of 1 to 5 years and comes with certain restrictions.

Additionally, the proposed law reverts the situation back to 2017, effectively cancelling the possibility of obtaining a foreign passport immediately upon arrival in Israel.

The government justifies the amendment by citing statistics that show a significant number of repatriates, particularly from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, leave Israel. Although it is unclear how many of them leave immediately after receiving a foreign passport, it is believed that a considerable percentage do so.

Critics argue that the proposed amendment creates a discriminatory system and undermines the principles of equality and dignity. They emphasize that new repatriates are citizens of Israel and should not be treated as second-class citizens with conditional citizenship.

It is worth mentioning that previous attempts to tighten the rules for issuing foreign passports have been made in the past. In December 2020, the then Minister of Interior, Aryeh Deri, proposed a new procedure for issuing passports based on the duration of stay in Israel. However, the current proposed law goes further by introducing stricter restrictions.

The initial amendment allowing new repatriates to obtain a foreign passport upon arrival was passed in June 2017, after being proposed by Member of Knesset Oded Forer. This change sparked discussions and concerns that it could lead to “passport immigration,” where people would come to Israel solely to obtain a foreign passport, which grants visa-free access to 150 countries, and then return to their country of residence.

The recent increase in repatriation from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has prompted further discussions on amending the Law of Return, including removing the provision allowing grandchildren of Jews to be eligible for repatriation.

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