Despite Successes, Yisrael Beiteinu Fails to Pass Several Controversial Bills

Debates about the bills exposes left-right, religious-secular and Arab-Jewish fissures among Knesset members; Knesset breaks for spring recess.

The Knesset will adjourn today for its spring recess, following a stormy winter session which saw Yisrael Beiteinu fail to pass a number of controversial citizenship and loyalty bills at the last minute.

Debates about the bills exposed left-right, religious-secular and Arab-Jewish fissures among Knesset members.

Yisrael Beiteinu did manage to see two other bills passed late Tuesday night.

Yisrael Beiteinu's loyalty oath bill, among the mostly hotly contested of the faction's proposals, did not make it out of the session.

The bill would require any person seeking citizenship to pledge allegiance to Israel as a "Jewish and democratic" state.

Also stalled until the Knesset reconvenes after the spring holidays are changes to the conversion law sponsored by Yisrael Beiteinu head Avigdor Lieberman.

Similarly, proposed measures to benefit mixed-religion couples have yet to win support of the government coalition.

Even the much publicized initiative calling for the establishment of a parliamentary committee to investigate funding sources of left-wing organizations was derailed at the last moment.

Knesset action on this bill, sponsored by Yisrael Beiteinu MK Fania Kirshenbaum, was deferred to the summer session, but in the meantime several coalition members have withdrawn support for this law.

Yisrael Beiteinu did come away with two bills, both spearheaded by MK David Rotem which were recently passed on second and third reading.

The first law allows the courts to revoke the citizenship of a person convicted of espionage, or aiding the enemy during war.

The law was derided by several groups for disproportionately affecting Israel Arab community and the Shin Bet security service also came out against the measure.

"Anyone who betrays the state, and carries out acts of terror, should know that citizenship and loyalty go together," Rotem said upon the bill's passage. "There can be no citizenship without loyalty. ... The real sting of the law is on the symbolic level. It says that citizenship in the state of Israel is conditional. It is not natural citizenship, nor universal citizenship, nor citizenship bestowed on any citizen no matter what he or she does. It is citizenship contingent upon behavior."

Compromise on admissions bill

The second bill, cosponsored by Rotem and Kadima MKs Shai Hermesh and Israel Hasson, allows small communities in certain parts of the country to screen potential neighbors.

Though the original would have let communities bar Arabs, homosexuals, immigrants or anyone else they deem undesirable, an accepted compromise forwarded by Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin means the towns cannot use race, religion, nationality or physical handicap in making their decisions.

The compromise also limits communities allowed to establish admissions committees to ones with fewer than 400 families located in the Negev or Galilee.

Though two Kadima members co-sponsored the small communities law, Kadima did not enforce party discipline in Knesset votes on this measure, or on the citizenship nullification law.

In the end, a majority of Kadima members did not turn up for votes in the plenary on these two laws.

Another controversial measure passed this week sanctions the revoking of pension benefits to former MKs on the lam.

It was seen as specifically targetting former Balad MK Azmi Bishara, who fled the country after being accused of national security crimes.

Arab MKs claimed that the measure's backers are simply trying to "settle accounts" with Bishara.

Bishara now stands to lose out on NIS 7,229 a month of taxpayer money in pension benefits until he turns himself into the police for interrogation.