Knesset Vote on Israeli Citizenship Law Postponed to Next Monday, a Day Before It Expires

A majority has not yet been formed to vote on the amendment which would prevent the granting of citizenship to Palestinians married to Arabs with Israeli citizenship, spurring the coalition to postpone the vote by a week

Michael Hauser Tov
Michael Hauser Tov
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Demonstration in front of the Knesset against the controversial citizenship law, Israel 2021.
Demonstration in front of the Knesset against the controversial citizenship law, Israel 2021.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Michael Hauser Tov
Michael Hauser Tov

The government delayed on Tuesday a highly-anticipated vote on the temporary legislation that would extend the current ban on the granting of Israeli citizenship to Palestinians married to Israelis until next Monday, a day before it expires.

The Knesset plenum was supposed to vote on the amendment to the law on Wednesday, but the coalition has failed to form a majority to pass it due to a lack of backing from both members of government and the opposition.

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The controversy of the Citizenship Law revolves around the issue of whether Palestinians living in the West Bank or Gaza, who marry Israeli citizens, can be banned from living permanently in Israel with their spouses and denied a path to citizenship.

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked and Construction and Housing Minister Zeev Elkin have been working to reach a compromise with United Arab List leader Mansour Abbas, with Elkin offering him to be deputy minister of the Construction and Housing Ministry in exchange for backing the law. 

Abbas may compromise on wording of the law, coalition sources told Haaretz, but even if he does, he may not be able to persuade the members of his Islamist political party. 

"I don't know how my fellow party members would react," Abbas said in an interview with Kan public radio.  

The Arrangements Committee was supposed to determine as early as Sunday which committee would prepare the law for a vote in the plenum, but due to the lack of a majority for the coalition, the vote was postponed every day for the last three days, even though the committee convened, and the issue was on the agenda due to disputes among committee members. 

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and United Arab List chairman Mansour Abbas in the Knesset, in Jerusalem, last week. Credit: Emil Salman

Most of the permanent Knesset committees have not yet been established, and it's possible that a dedicated committee will be established to address the Citizenship Law. The committee will prepare the amendment before it reaches the plenum, and it will go up for a single vote - in violation of laws that require three readings.

The temporary amendment to the law was passed in 2003, during the second intifada. Its purpose was, on security grounds, to prevent residents of the West Bank who married Israeli citizens from receiving Israeli citizenship.

It has been renewed on an annual basis since, and work on extending it again was begun by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud-led government before it was replaced this month. Since then, however, Likud has refused to support the extension, saying that the party would not assist the coalition in overcoming the obstacles resulting from the diverse views among the parties that make it up.

If the current legislation expires, the immediate significance would be limited because Shaked has the authority to reject Palestinian applications for Israeli citizenship in Israel. On Sunday, Shaked again called on the opposition to vote in favor of the amendment, or at least to abstain “if they don’t want to immediately naturalize 15,000 Palestinians.”

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