The Israeli parliament failed to renew a law known as the “citizenship law”, which prevents the unification of Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza Strip with their spouses of Palestinians inside who hold Israeli citizenship.
This law was enacted during the second intifada, and has been renewed annually since then, but it will expire on Tuesday, after the vote on it failed.
Supporters of the law see it as a necessary “security measure,” while its opponents see it as discriminating against Arabs and preventing Palestinian family unification, by not giving spouses from the West Bank and Gaza Israeli identity cards like their valued partners at home.
This vote is the first challenge to the coalition government headed by Naftali Bennett, which won a slim majority in the Israeli Knesset last June.
Bennett presented the vote on the citizenship law as a vote of confidence in his new, ideologically diverse government, comprising left-wing, centre-right, right-wing and Arab parties.
After a stormy debate that lasted all night, the vote tied with 59 members in approval of the law, and the same number against, which will prevent its renewal.
Bennett had made a settlement with the “Southern Islamic Movement” led by Mansour Abbas, who is participating in the government. Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked said in the Knesset, “We reached understandings between the government coalition bloc to extend the law for six months, and for 1,600 Palestinians to obtain permanent residency in the country.”
But two members of the United Arab List (of which the Southern Islamic Movement is the mainstay) abstained, Saeed Al Kharumi and Mazen Ghaneim, and MK Amichai Shekli of Bennett’s Yamina party voted against the law.
To approve the law, which Bennett described as “essential to national security,” the Israeli prime minister called on opposition right-wing parties led by Benjamin Netanyahu, who ousted him last month, to support the law.
He said, “I call on my friends in the opposition not to tamper with things in which state security is a red line, and the state needs to control who enters it and who obtains citizenship in it.”
But Netanyahu refused to help pass the bill. “You are the government and the responsibility lies with you,” he said. He added: “You cannot form a government based on anti-Zionist forces (in reference to the United Arab List party) and come to us and ask us to save you.”
Right-wing opposition politicians, who had previously supported the law, led by Netanyahu, voted against the law to embarrass Bennett.
Under the abolition of this law, thousands of Palestinians married to Israeli citizens may be able to change their legal status, reside with their families, and move around more easily.
“Reader. Infuriatingly humble travel enthusiast. Extreme food scholar. Writer. Communicator.”