The citizenship law, adopted in its second and third readings by the Knesset on Thursday, is a racist and anti-democratic law which distinguishes between Jewish and Arab citizens, preventing Arabs from enjoying benefits reserved for Jews only.
The law does not allow Arab Israeli citizens who marry Arabs from the West Bank to form a family in Israel, since it prevents West Bank partners from obtaining legal status in Israel following their marriage to an Israeli citizen, a status afforded to partners of Jewish citizens.
The temporary ordinance that was first legislated in 2003 [and renewed annually] has for 19 years been using the specious excuse of security considerations in order to prevent what the many supporters of this law term a “creeping return” of Palestinians to within the pre-1967 borders. Since the ordinance was first legislated, the demographic consideration was never explicitly mentioned. It always cited security-related issues.
This year’s formula demonstrates the fruition of a process of shedding off any shame, a process spearheaded by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (“we’re no longer apologizing”) and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked (the producer of the “scent of fascism”). As part of understandings reached with the opposition, a clause dealing with the objectives of the law was added, so that it now alludes to the fact that at the foundation of this law are demographic considerations.
The law passed (with 45 votes in favor, 15 against) even though two coalition parties, the United Arab List and Meretz, opposed it. Labor Party members who absented themselves from the vote again proved that ideologically, their natural place is with the right. The law passed due to cooperation between right-wingers from the coalition and the opposition. Such parliamentary action casts doubt on the project of change Bennett has pretensions of leading, along with his partners in the center-left and the United Arab List. It exposes a right-wing Jewish coalition that exists under the surface, which may continue to pursue anti-democratic legislation while turning the purported coalition of change into a mere façade.
The extreme right realizes full well the right-leaning potential of this government, and the chairman of the Religious Zionism party, Bezalel Smotrich, has already assigned it some tasks. “One more achievement of this law is the understanding that the left will not topple this government come what may. If representatives of the right wish to support this, the government has a free hand to take nationalist action. Members of the right wing no longer have excuses. We now have to take action in amending the legal system, subjugating the courts to the Knesset, on the settlements of Evyatar and Homesh, on the young settlement movement, on Judaizing the Negev and Galilee, on correcting the rules of engagement, on subtracting payments to Palestinian prisoners from funds transferred to the Palestinian Authority; these and other issues await your action.”
One may hope that the High Court of Justice repeals this racist, discriminatory and unconstitutional law. If the government of change is only a façade that enables the continued rule and entrenchment of the right, its other elements should reconsider whether their place lies in such a government.
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The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.