Keeping Them Out / How Strict Is Strict?

The Rubinstein Committee was appointed by a minister who is no longer in the government, and it submitted its report shortly before a general election. That would seem a surefire recipe for its burial.

Nevertheless, at least those proposals that would make Israel's immigration policy more stringent seem likely to be implemented, in part because in another six months, the temporary law preventing family unifications of Israeli-Palestinian couples will lapse.

Therefore, one of the new government's most urgent tasks will be drafting a permanent policy to replace this temporary law.

The Rubinstein recommendations have several pluses from the government's perspective: They completely ban family unifications for residents of Gaza and anyone below age 23, and also allow the government to reject applicants who do not prove their loyalty.

But they also have a drawback: Unlike the temporary law, they do not sweepingly bar family unifications for West Bank residents.

All of the committee's other recommendations, for example, instituting quotas for new immigrants through marriage (from anywhere), also appear likely to be adopted.

That's because there is broad agreement among the political center and right, as well as among senior civil servants, that Israel's immigration policy must be seriously tightened.

Additionally, it will be much easier to pass a law preventing family unifications of Palestinians if the law also impedes family reunifications of non-Palestinians.

Therefore, there is no doubt that immigration policy will be tightened. The only question that remains is whether the government will adopt the Rubinstein proposals or an even more stringent policy.

But the Rubinstein proposals have a significant advantage from the government's perspective: the kashrut stamp provided by Amnon Rubinstein himself and other committee members.

In addition to the Rubinstein recommendations, the government also is interested in promoting other initiatives to tighten immigration policy, such as the Illegal Residents Bill.

This bill would require anyone in Israel illegally - even if he or she is married to an Israeli, or the parent or child of a legal new immigrant - to leave the country for an extended cooling-off period.

Therefore, by the end of the next Knesset, Israel is likely to have a stringent, European-style policy under which people who marry foreigners may not be able to live in the country with their spouses.

One major question that remains is whether the government will adopt only the stringent portions of the Rubinstein proposals, or also those that make life easier for foreign workers, recommendation that are strongly opposed by the Justice Ministry.

A battle can be expected in the cabinet, but as usual, stringency will probably win.