The Israeli government recently failed to renew the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law, giving thousands of torn Palestinean-Israeli families new found hope after years of forced separation. The law, which requires yearly approval, hinders Palestinean spouses from living together in Israel if one of the partners is from the West Bank and the other from Jerusalem or Israel. Furthermore, it also prohibits the Palestinean spouses of Isreali citizens from achieving Israeli citizenship. Meanwhile, non-Palestinean spouses of Israeli citizenship are granted Israeli citizenship. It is the first time in 17 years, since its 2003 inception, that the law has been blocked in the Israeli parliament.
Members of the ideologically scattered coalition led by right wing Prime Minister Naftali Bennet blocked the extension. Specifically, two members of the Arab Islamist party and one rebel member of the party refused extention.
Members of predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu and his ultra-Orthodix allies also ensured the failure of extension as a tactic to humiliate and undermine the new government. Together, they ensured the vote would be a no-confidence motion despite voting in support of extension in preceding years.
Supporters of the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law
Different arguments have been made in support and disapproval of the law. One member of Bennet’s right wing party, referring to Palestinieans as “small snakes.” holds that allowing more Palestineans into Israeli territory is a security threat.
Moderate members of parliament argue that the law should remain intact to conserve a Jewish majority in Israel. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid tweeted that there was no need to hide the law’s purpose, which is aimed at “demographic engineering.” He wrote “It’s one of the tools meant to secure a Jewish majority in Israel. Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, and our goal is that it will have a Jewish majority.”
Still, many members of Bennet’s party note how the decision to bar the law does not reflect the true political desires of Israeli politicians, and was rather a ploy used to destabilize the new government. Bennet accused Netenyahu’s supporters of playing “childish games,” neglecting their “national responsibility.”
The new party, which gained support by promising a renewed focus on domestically focused politics such as improving the economy and providing better national infrastructure, has failed to prevent contentious results on more divisive issues such as immigration.
Disproval for the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law
On the other side, true adversaries of the law argue that it is racist and discriminatory against Palestinean Arab’s as it revokes the basic right to provide spouses with legal status. Opponents such as Aida Tuoma-Sliman, a member of the opposition in parliament, describe the law as a “moral and political disgrace,” that aims to preserve “Jewish supremacy”. Opponents believe it is aimed towards religious and ethnic cleansing. She said, “We hope that the law will be buried today without ceremony…so that our people can choose whom to love and with whom to live.”
Besides these differing positions, and the underlying political strategies at play, the ultimate failure to renew the law may begin to affect the thousands of Palestineans married to Isreali spouses as they are emboldened to apply for residency rights in Israel without fear of arrest.
Still, there is no assurance that this process will prove easy or free from any constraints as many are considering to host a re-vote in the coming weeks in hopes of getting it approved once again.
Netenyahu’s supporters are preparing to promote a new and more permanent law that would completely ban Palestinean spouses from living in Isreali territory, increasing the hurdles that have been previously permitted.