Bbc News
December 28, 2007 - 2:37pm

The Israeli government says Jewish immigration to Israel has fallen to its lowest level in 20 years, with fewer than 20,000 Jews arriving in 2007.

The agency to promote Jewish migration to Israel said the Diaspora had less reason to leave countries of origin, while Israel was losing its appeal.

Israel's Law of Return allows anyone who is Jewish or has a Jewish spouse, parent or grandparent to be a citizen.

Immigration is an important factor in Israel's survival as a Jewish state.

The head of the Jewish Agency, Zeev Bielsky, said the economic boom in Russia had slowed the flow of migrants.

He also said the French elections, won by Nicolas Sarkozy - one of whose grandparents was Jewish, had made Jews feel more secure in France.

Most Israeli citizens are from families of former Diaspora Jews who returned to the land of their forefathers in the 20th Century, fleeing discrimination and persecution in Europe and the Middle East to the Jewish state which was founded in 1948.

But more than one million Muslim and Christian Arabs also have Israeli nationality, a sizeable and growing proportion of Israel's population of seven million.

About four million Palestinians live in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.


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