Israel’s Controversial Citizenship Law Expires After Prime Minister’s Defeat
The new Israeli government has suffered its first significant defeat in parliament. It failed to extend a law that prevents Palestinians from the Gaza Strip or the West Bank from obtaining Israeli citizenship or a residence permit if they marry an Israeli.
The legislation dates from 2003. According to proponents, the rules were intended to prevent Palestinians from acquiring Israeli nationality through marriage and then being able to help carry out attacks. Opponents call the legislation discriminatory.
The regulations sometimes presented severe practical problems for married couples. For example, they could not just live together in Israel. The head of the human rights group HaMoked, which helps Palestinians, said “tens of thousands of families” have been duped.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett pushed for an extension but was unable to get the support of a majority of parliamentarians. There were 59 votes in favour of extension and 59 against. Two MPs abstained.
The outcome of the vote on the citizenship bill shows how fragile Bennett’s new coalition is. It consists of parties of all kinds of political colours that are mainly united in their dislike of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Bennett had pinned his hopes on the right-wing opposition, led by his rival Netanyahu. He had the legislation extended as prime minister himself, but this time voted against it. He sees the new government as a threat to Israeli security and said Bennett should solve his own political problems.