Interior Minister Plans to Return 'Nationality' Clause to ID Cards

Eli Yishai said however that he still opposes classifying Reform and Conservative communities as Jews; Leader of the Reform movement: Yishai is a strategic threat to Israel.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai plans to return the nationality section to identification cards, Channel 2 reported on Monday. According to Yishai's plan, citizens would be able to insert the clause, which today appears only as a line of asterisks.

In 2002, the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee canceled the nationality clause after the High Court ordered the Interior Ministry to classify Reform and Conservative community members as Jewish, in Israel and abroad. Yishai, who was also the interior minister at the time, announced he would not comply with the ruling and the clause was left blank as a compromise.

yishai - Emil Salman - December 14 2010
Emil Salman

In a document explaining the plan, its proponents say that many people still have the nationality clause in their IDs and that this is "important to their sense of belonging and part of their national identity."

The document also claims that for this reason many citizens prefer not to renew their cards even if they have worn out or need replacement.

Interior ministry spokesman Roi Lahmanovich told Haaretz that "there are Holocaust survivors who want the nationality clause, and those who lost their IDs and ask why they can't leave in the word 'Jewish'." Certain Israelis who may pass as foreigners or minorities have claimed they want to keep the "Jewish" clause in order to "pass security checks more easily."

The Justice Department has already voiced opposition to the move, and the Reform movement is threatening to take the matter to the High Court.

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, head of the Reform movement, said the move is a plan to prevent recognition of Reform and Conservative Jews. "The transparent and unsophisticated use of Holocaust survivors as an excuse for the plan only shows how low minister Yishai is ready to stoop in his struggle with the Reform communities," he said. "We call on the prime minister to stop Yishai from spreading fire and not to create unnecessary rifts and disagreements among the Jewish people."

Attorney Yizhar Hess, director general of the Conservative movement, called the decision "cynical and mean. Most of the Jewish people are Reform or Conservative, but a small fundamentalist minority damages Israel's image at a time it needs the Jews of the world more than ever. Minister Yishai is a strategic threat to the state of Israel as the Jewish people's home and a democratic state."