The amendment of the Citizenship law that bans Palestinians who marry Israelis to obtain legal status was not extended for the first time in 13 years. The vote turned into a motion of defiance for the newly formed government.
The citizenship law temporarily bans Palestinians who are married to Israelis to obtain citizenship status or residency in Israel. The amendment of the law has been renewed every year since it was voted in 2003 during the second intifada. Part of the new coalition government opposed the ban despite last-minute deals.
On July 5, in a tied vote with 69 on each side, and 2 abstentions from the Arab Islamist party that form the coalition, the law was not extended. One lawmaker part of the governing party voted against the law. The Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned that “bringing in thousands of Palestinians and naturalizing them harms state security“.
The Prime Minister yet thought he had reached an agreement to vote for a 6-month extension instead of a year, issuing 1,600 Palestinian families with a residency permit and humanitarian solutions to almost 10,000 Palestinians living in Israel.
The law is controversial as opponents argue human rights discriminatory reasons since it leaves some residents in precarious legal situations. In fact, the ban is also about preserving the Jewish majority in Israel.
A law to preserve the Jewish majority of Israel
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid clearly acknowledged it: “There is no need to hide from the essence of this law. It is one of the tools designed to ensure the Jewish majority in the State of Israel. Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people, and our goal is to have a Jewish majority. In addition, the law has security importance.“
In 2002, a Palestinian spouse of an Israeli killed 15 people in a suicide bombing, and another killed seven people by driving with a bomb to a bus in Jerusalem.
According to an Israeli human rights group, there are 9,200 Palestinians living in Israel who married an Israeli. Another 3,500 individuals have a temporary-resident visa. About 130,000 Palestinians acquired Israeli citizenship before the restriction in 2003. And an Israeli media reported that about 20,000 Palestinians would have received citizenship or residency rights every year without the ban.
Despite the law isn’t extended, changes will not be dramatic. The Ministry of Interior still has the possibility to grant residency on a case-by-case basis.
Instead, the vote also marks the precarious state of the coalition. Likud, the conservative party with Benjamin Netanyahu, and the ultra-Orthodox allies voted against the amendment despite having approved it every previous year. The vote was turned into a motion of censure against the government, which failed to gain absolute majority.
- PM slams opposition: Voting against Citizenship Law is ‘harming state security’, Ynet, July 2021, Free access
- Yair Lapid, Twitter, July 2021, Free access