Shin Bet Retracts Support, but Citizenship Revocation Bill Still Passes Knesset Hurdle

Yisrael Beiteinu MK David Rotem's bill would grant courts authority to revoke citizenship of people convicted of terror-related offenses.

The Shin Bet security service yesterday backtracked on its support for a bill granting the courts authority to revoke Israeli citizenship of people convicted of terror-related offenses. The Shin Bet said "existing legislation offered sufficient deterrent in such cases."

Last October, MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu ) submitted a bill by which courts or administrative authorities would have the right to revoke Israeli citizenship from those convicted of acts of terrorism or espionage. Despite the Shin Bet's withdrawal of support for the measure, it passed by a 4 to 3 vote following a tense and stormy session of the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee.

David Rotem
Tess Scheflan

Committee chairman David Azoulay (Shas ) abstained and MK Daniel Ben-Simon (Labor ) was late to the meeting and therefore did not vote.

A revote is to be held at a later date at the request of MK Dov Khenin (Hadash ).

A letter from the Shin Bet was read at the meeting, which stated: "to our understanding, the law in its current form provides a suitable response to the need that arises to revoke [citizenship] in a way that constitutes a deterrent both to the individual and the [wider public.]"

At the October meeting of the committee, the Shin Bet's legal counsel said the bill had deterrent value and that the authority to revoke citizenship "should be in the hands of the court in some way or other."

Following yesterday's meeting, the Shin Bet published a further clarification stating that its position had not changed since the October meeting. "The representative of the legal department stated that the Shin Bet was considering the bill and had not yet made a final decision," a spokesperson said.

MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz ) told the committee the law was unnecessary, because the state already had the authority to revoke citizenship and has done so in the past for a variety of reasons and that "a person convicted of espionage or treason in any case sits in jail for many years, so revoking citizenship neither adds nor detracts."

MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad ) asked if the bill would apply to Yigal Amir, the assassin of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, to which Rotem responded: "No, that is not the case; he did not betray the country.

After Khenin asked what point there was to a bill that the Shin Bet opposed, Rotem and fellow faction member Fania Kirshenbaum (Yisrael Beiteinu ) said the organization "does not oppose the bill, but just doesn't support it."