In Heated Session, Israel Votes to Re-ban Palestinian Family Unification

The bill managed to pass comfortably in a last-ditch vote before the Israeli parliament enters recess, despite opposition from the United Arab List and Meretz

Ayelet Shaked speaking at the Knesset on March 10, 2022.
Ayelet Shaked speaking at the Knesset on March 10, 2022.Credit: Emil Salman

Israel's coalition passed a law effectively barring Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza who are married to Israeli citizens from gaining citizenship or residency on Thursday, in a fraught final session before the Knesset breaks for recess.

The bill passed with 45 votes in favor and 15 against, with both the United Arab List and Meretz of the coalition opposing the law.

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The bill, spearheaded by Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, enshrines in law a temporary amendment that had been renewed annually since 2003, but expired in July as the coalition failed to gather the votes to renew it in a key early hurdle for the coalition.

The Joint List, an Arab-majority three-way alliance in the opposition, again sought to precipitate a coalition crisis by declaring the vote a motion of no-confidence.

The United Arab List said it would still vote against the law, but Joint List lawmaker Ahmed Tibi suggested that UAL leader Mansour Abbas signs on an agreement to dissolve the Knesset, leading to a spat between the two former colleagues.

After the passage of the bill, Ayelet Shaked declared victory for a "Jewish and democratic state" over a "state of all its citizens."

Meretz's Mossi Raz, however, decried the law as "racist," adding that 16 lawmakers spanning his own party, the Joint List, the United Arab List and Labor have proposed an alternative bill to repeal it.

Ahmed Tibi in the Knesset on March 10, 2022.Credit: Emil Salman

According to the amendment in the Citizenship Law, a temporary residence permit will be issued for a period of two years compared to the original one year, and the interior minister will be obliged to revoke it if proven that the recipient committed an act involving breach of trust (terrorism, espionage or treason) to the State of Israel.

According to the final draft of the bill, the law would be valid for 12 months, though its sponsors hoped to apply it for longer.

In addition, the temporary residency permit that may be granted in specific cases would last two years, instead of one, as the original draft stipulated. The final text allows the interior minister to revoke it if the holder is convicted of terrorism, espionage or treason.

The bill's sponsors justify it on security grounds, arguing that Palestinian militants might use marriage to enter Israel, while its detractors argue it is racially-motivated and is a tool to preserve a demographic majority.

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