Bill Would Permit Revoking Terrorists' Citizenship

The interior minister could revoke the citizenship of individuals connected to terror, under a draft bill approved by the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee yesterday.

Further grounds for losing citizenship include treason, espionage, or acquiring citizenship from an enemy country - including the Gaza Strip.

Under the bill, the minister would order a district court to revoke the individual's citizenship.

The bill will now be returned to the Knesset plenum for second and third readings. It is expected to pass next week.

Currently, the interior minister actually has much broader legal authorities in this area, including the right to revoke the citizenship of anyone guilty of breach of trust with the state, and does not need court approval. However, the attorney general has been barring the interior minister from exercising this authority.

A version of the bill sponsored by MKs Gilad Erdan (Likud) and Esterina Tartman (Yisrael Beiteinu) sought to give the authority to revoke citizenship over breaches of trust to the courts, so that the penalty actually could be carried out.

The version submitted to the Knesset committee yesterday was a more limited one.

At the meeting, a representative of the Shin Bet security service argued that the bill would make it too difficult to revoke the citizenship of terrorists, and called for a lower burden of proof. Committee chairman MK Ophir Pines-Paz (Labor) responded by calling the argument outrageous, saying that the Shin Bet should be in the service of the state and not the other way around.

MK Jamal Zahalka, chairman of the Balad party, argued yesterday that the purpose of the law was to revoke the citizenship of Azmi Bishara, the former party leader who fled Israel. Zahalka also claimed the law was intended for use only against Arab citizens.

The committee members amended the terms of the bill to authorize the interior minister to revoke citizenship obtained with false papers, but there are disagreements between the committee and the Interior Ministry over the exact terms of this section of the bill. The specifics will be hammered out in the Knesset plenum.