MK Aims to Keep Palestinians Married to Israelis From Gaining Citizenship

Ministerial panel to vote Sunday on amendment to keep High Court from annulling controversial Citzenship Law.

The ministerial committee on legislation is to vote Sunday on an amendment proposed by MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu) to the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Freedom, intended to bring it into line with the controversial Citizenship and Entry to Israel Law.

Rotem believes the Knesset must keep the High Court of Justice from annulling a controversial law that denies citizenship to Palestinians married to Israelis.

Rotem, who is chairman of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, has gotten 44 MKs to submit the bill with him.

Four petitions against the recent extension of the law until the summer of 2010 have been submitted to the High Court, claiming it is unconstitutional. The High Court has harshly criticized the law in the past, but has not called it unconstitutional.

Rotem says he sees no problem with the Knesset intervening in real time with court deliberations. "If I were to discover that some law stating that the sun must rise at 8 A.M. could be interpreted by the court as stating that the sun must rise at 8 P.M., I would immediately go to court and say that that was not the intent of the lawmaker."

In recent years, ministers and MKs have made various proposals to deal with the fact that the Citizenship and Entry to Israel Law ostensibly contradicts the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Freedom, and also infringes on the right to family life and equality. However, none of these proposals have come to fruition. Rotem says he does not want to limit the court, but rather "to enshrine legislation that has already passed. The Knesset's job is to make the laws, and the court's job is to interpret it."

According to Rotem's proposal, the amendment to the Basic Law would state that there is no conflict between it and the Citizenship and Entry to Israel Law.

Among the MKs supporting the amendment are Michael Ben-Ari and Aryeh Eldad (National Union), Ofir Akunis and Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), and Tzachi Hanegbi, Yohanan Plesner and Nahman Shai (Kadima).

Former Meretz-Yahad MK Zahava Gal-On, one of the petitioners to annul the Citizenship and Entry to Israel Law, reacted angrily yesterday to the fact that so many lawmakers are supporting Rotem's amendment. "The Knesset wants to enshrine racism ... in a Basic Law," she said.

Gal-On noted that when the High Court extended the Citizenship Law in 2006, it said the law was racist and unacceptable, but it could stand because it was temporary.

In the 2006 ruling, Justice Edmond Levy - who agreed with the minority opinion of the bench that the law was disproportionate, yet joined the majority opinion not to strike it down - wrote that an alternative must be found to the overall prohibition against Palestinians married to Israelis receiving citizenship, and cases must be examined individually.

Among the petitioners against the law is the human rights organization Adalah, which presented three legal opinions stating that no democratic country has a similar law discriminating citizens based on ethnicity or nationality against the right to family life.

The public movement Fence for Life, established at the time to support construction of the security fence, recently said it wants to present its opinion to the High Court that the petitions against the law are "among the most dangerous in the history of Israel."