After Past Blushes, Israeli Gov't to Bring Palestinian Family Unification Bill to Vote

The amendment to the Citizenship Law expired in July following a mutiny in the coalition. Israel's cabinet is set to table the bill once again, but there are no guarantees it will secure a majority in the Knesset this time around

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Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked at the Knesset during overnight discussion on the citizenship law in June
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked at the Knesset during overnight discussion on the citizenship law in JuneCredit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel

A ministerial committee decided on Sunday that it will bring a controversial bill barring Palestinians from living with their spouses in Israel to a vote in the Knesset for a second time, despite not having the full backing of the coalition.

The government failed to muster the support in July to pass the amendment to the Citizenship Law, leading to its first expiration since its introduction in 2003 and embarrassing the new coalition in an early test. 

The bill prevents Palestinians living in the West Bank or Gaza who marry Israeli citizens from living permanently in Israel with their spouses and denies them a path to citizenship.

>> Opinion: Israel's cruel Citizenship Law is rotten, racist and unredeemable

On Sunday, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked's proposal was approved by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, and will now proceed to the Knesset with the support of the government.

However, Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg, Meretz’s representative on the committee, opposed the law, adding that her party will not support the amendment unless commitments made by the government about the law were honored.

Meanwhile, Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai of the Labor Party abstained. The United Arab List also opposes the law, but the party does not have a representative on the committee because it has no ministers. At this stage, it is not clear whether the government has a majority in the Knesset to pass the amendment.

Since the expiration of the amendment, Ayelet Shaked instructed the Population, Immigration and Border Authority in her ministry to continue to act as if the law was in place, amid a significant uptick in applications from Palestinian families. 

On Monday last week, the State Prosecutor’s Office informed the Supreme Court that Shaked intends on completing the legislative process and passing the law this month, in response to an appeal filed by Palestinians and human rights organizations against the government – which continues to enforce a law that has expired.

The government said in its response that deputy attorney general Gil Limon recently held three discussions on the matter and the Justice Ministry is holding meetings to complete the writing of temporary policies and arrangements on the issue – until a new law is passed.

The state said that work on the temporary regulations is expected to be completed by January 16. In any case, Shaked has announced that she intends on passing the legislation within four weeks, it added.  

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