Meretz Obejction Blocks Knesset Vote on Bill to Prevent Palestinian Family Unification

The bill, sponsored by Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, will go back to the cabinet for further discussions

Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel
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

Israel's left-wing Meretz party filed an objection with the cabinet secretariat on Wednesday over the Citizenship Law proposed by Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked. The bill will now be returned to the cabinet for further discussion.

The objection is meant to block a vote in the Knesset without the consent of Meretz and the United Arab List, the two coalition parties objecting to the law in its current version. The bill is meant to prevent residency for Palestinians married to Israeli citizens.

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Earlier this month, the state informed the High Court of Justice that Shaked would complete the legislation process within four weeks. Meretz filed its objection out of concern that Shaked would bring her proposal to a vote at the plenum without coordinating this with other coalition parties.

The Citizenship Law is designed to prevent the granting of legal status to Palestinians who are married to Israeli citizens. Shaked initiated the bill after the expiration last July of a previous law, which was legislated as a temporary measure in 2003 and has been extended annually since then. Meretz declared that it would not support this law if commitments it received a few months ago were not met.

These commitments were made when the law first came to a vote at the plenum, but failed to pass. The agreement was that requests would be examined on an individual basis, and that Palestinians who have been living in Israel for a long time would be granted legal status.

Even though the previous law expired in July, after the coalition failed to achieve a majority in the Knesset, Shaked instructed the Population and Immigration Authority to continue dealing with requests for family unification as if the law were still valid. Last month, Supreme Court Justice Uzi Fogelman expressed scathing criticism of Shaked’s policy. Two weeks ago, in response to a petition filed with the High Court of Justice by Palestinians and human rights groups, state prosecutors said that Shaked intends to complete the legislation of the Citizenship Law by the end of January.

On Sunday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved the promotion of a citizenship bill brought forward by opposition MK Simcha Rothman (Religious Zionism). It sets harsher terms than the bill proposed by Shaked. The support for Rothman’s bill is meant to leave an opening for negotiating with the opposition over Shaked’s law. After cabinet ministers approved Rothman’s proposal, Foreign Minister and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid filed an objection. This proposal will therefore also return to the cabinet for further discussion.

The dispute over the Citizenship Law followed Wednesday’s preliminary vote at the Knesset on the Regulation of Residence in Grazing Areas Bill, a private bill initiated by New Hope lawmaker Sharren Haskel. The legislation approves the establishment of private farms in grazing areas. The bill passed its preliminary vote with the support of the opposition, despite encountering opposition among coalition parties.

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