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Israeli Minister Slammed for Saying He 'Regrets' the Return of Soviet Immigrants

The minister landed in hot water after lamenting the presence of hundreds of thousands of immigrants from the USSR on Israeli soil and criticising the current situation in the Immigrant Absorption Ministry.

Aryeh Deri, Israel’s minister of interior and head of the Israeli Shas religious political party, has found himself under fire over racist remarks he made towards immigrants from the former Soviet Union, The Times of Israel reports.

"Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of Israelis who immigrated from the former Soviet Union in accordance with the Law of Return aren’t Jews according to halacha [Jewish religious law] and they are here, to my great regret," he said.

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As the newspaper points out, about 400,000 people currently living in Israel, most of them immigrants from the former Soviet republics, are not considered Jewish by the Chief Rabbinate and therefore “unable to marry in state-sanctioned weddings or to enjoy other basic rights”.

During his speech at a campaign event in Ashdod, Deri also criticised the current climate in the Immigrant Absorption Ministry where one allegedly cannot walk around "unless you speak Russian".

"The ministry will no longer exist to serve immigrants from the Soviet Union. It will be for those who make aliyah from France, and will be a home for Jews from Ethiopia," Deri said regarding his future plans.

In response, Israeli ex-defence minister Avigdor Lieberman, himself an immigrant from the USSR, declared that he would become interior minister and “stop the racism and discrimination pushed by the ultra-Orthodox establishment against immigrants from the former Soviet Union.”

Lieberman’s fellow party member Oded Forer also said that he was "embarrassed to hear [Deri’s] venomous racism against people who realise the Zionist vision and settle the Land of Israel", and urged Deri to "apologise to the millions of Israeli citizens who made aliyah from the former Soviet Union".

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