Officials in the Prime Minister's Office yesterday denied reports that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had decided to allow the remaining 7,000 members of the Bnei Menashe community in India to immigrate to Israel.
Bnei Menashe, a community of some 7,000 from India's northeastern border states, claim descent from Menashe, one of the Ten Lost Tribes.
The officials said Olmert had not made up his mind yet, and that Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit, who must sign the immigration approval, strongly objects to the move.
Some 600 Bnei Menashe immigrants were brought to Israel in the past decade. About half were converted to Judaism before immigrating and the rest after arriving, due to India's objection to religious conversions on its soil.
Israeli officials fear that approving the immigration of the entire Bnei Menashe community would meet objections from India and would encourage other groups to demand the right to come to Israel. They also fear that such a decision would ire those people acting to bring the Falashmura community from Ethiopia, which Israel has recently decided to stop bringing as a group.
Cabinet secretary Oved Yehezkel, who is in charge of the Diaspora, supports bringing the Bnei Menashe community here.