Knesset Extends Law Banning Palestinian Family Reunification

The 'emergency' legislation preventing Palestinians married to Israelis from becoming citizens or residents is voted on each year; however, a decision was made this week to allow more in-depth discussion before next year's Knesset vote.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
The separation barrier near the Palestinian town Anata, near East Jerusalem.
The separation barrier near the Palestinian town Anata, near East Jerusalem.Credit: Emil Salman
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

The Knesset on Monday extended for another year the law that allows the government to avoid granting Israeli citizenship or residency status to Palestinians married to Israelis.

The legislation was formulated originally in 2003 as an "emergency" statute, and the Knesset has extended it every year since then for an additional year, based on security considerations. This time, 57 MKs voted in favor of the extension, 20 opposed it and five abstained.

At the request of MK Merav Michaeli (Zionist Union), however, the Knesset House Committee decided in an exceptional step to change the process by which the law is reapproved in coming years. The proposal authorizes a joint body, consisting of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and its Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, to hold hearings about the request to extend the law each year, and to discuss it in depth before the legislation reaches the Knesset plenum for a vote.

Interior Minister Silvan Shalom (Likud) explained to the MKs the importance of extending the provisions of the law: “An examination of the security situation since the armed confrontation between Israel and the Palestinians broke out shows growing involvement of Palestinians residing in the region, who took advantage of their status in Israel as a result of family-reunification processes to become involved in terrorist activities, including aiding in carrying out suicide attacks.

"The potential security risks have grown in light of regional and international developments that have occurred over the past year, with an emphasis on the security situation in the Gaza Strip, the sharp rise in terror attacks – in particular, after the abduction and murder of the three Israeli youths [last summer] and the kidnapping and the murder of the young man Mahmoud Abu Khdeir – and the noticeable rise in recent months in the number of serious attacks that caused the deaths of Israeli citizens,” said Shalom.

Silvan Shalom and Ayelet Shaked in the Knesset, May 18, 2015Credit: Emil Salman

Technically, the law in question is supposed to be valid only for a limited period, although the process of passing it is the same as for regular legislation.

In response to the vote on Monday, MK Aida Touma-Suliman (Joint Arab List) said: “My daughter fell in love with a young white, blond man from Holland. I don’t want to think about what would have happened if she had fallen in love with a Palestinian. Their situation would have looked like that of almost 20,000 families, who became involved in a love story with a Palestinian Arab. An emergency regulation is an escape from legislating a law.”

Said MK Zehava Galon, the head of Meretz: “There is nothing more permanent than the temporary. What this Knesset is doing is serving as a rubber stamp to allow one of the disgraces that stains the Israeli books of law. What this bill says is that every Arab citizen becomes a potential terrorist. “

For his part, MK Daniel Atar (Zionist Union) decided to support the extension of the law, even though it was sponsored by the coalition. “We are dealing with a sensitive and problematic matter," said Atar, "since the emergency regulation combines within it elements that justify opposition, and yet on the other hand includes issues that require one to support the law. We must not be naive: Our aspiration is for a Jewish and democratic nation. I intend on supporting the extension if only to protect ourselves and the character of our country, and I call on the members of the opposition to also vote in favor."