Panel of Justices on Citizenship Law Turns Raucous

Debate arouses over law preventing Palestinians married to Israeli Arabs from receiving Israeli citizenship, residency.

A raucous debate erupted yesterday as a 11-member Supreme Court panel heard arguments for and against overturning a Citizenship Law amendment preventing Palestinians married to Israeli Arabs from receiving Israeli citizenship or residency.

"It has been eight years since the [temporary] law was passed, and it has been extended repeatedly, as the Knesset continues returning the ball to the Supreme Court," said Dafna Holz-Lechner, the attorney representing former Knesset member Zehava Gal-On.

Gal-On is one of four petitioners, along with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Hamoked Center for the Defense of the Individual and Adalah, The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.

A panel of 11 Supreme Court justices, led by court president Dorit Beinisch, heard arguments at yesterday's proceedings. Ilan Tsion, the attorney speaking in favor of the amendment on behalf of the organization Fence for Life, said, "Human rights are relative and must be weighed against other rights. There are also the human rights of those living in Israel, and ruling in favor of the petitions will greatly damage them."

State attorney Yochi Gnesin said that data provided by Israel's security apparatus show clearly that individuals receiving citizenship or residency in Israel often use their new status as a "platform" for conducting acts of terrorism. Gnesin told the panel that since September 2005, 632 Palestinians who received preliminary status authorization were linked to terrorist activity, and 273 either assisted in or directly carried out terrorists acts.