Coalition, Opposition Trade Barbs Over Vote on Palestinian Family Reunification Bill

View of the security barrier that runs through Kibbutz Kerem Shalom, on the southern Israeli border with the Gaza Strip. (Doron Horowitz/Flash90/File)

MKs in the coalition and opposition attacked each other Thursday over a vote in the Knesset on extending legislation that bars Palestinians who marry Israeli citizens from receiving Israeli citizenship.

Likud MK Fateen Mulla said that he would vote against extending the bill. Despite Likud being principally in favor of the legislation, party MKs have indicated they won’t support it because it originates from the coalition government. “We will oppose the law,” said Mulla, “we came to fight against this government until it topples.”

Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel of New Hope said that Likud’s approach shows it is “showing Bibi-ism over the good of the country and taking an anti-Zionist step.” Hendel told Yediot that “anyone who gives up on the security of the state and puts its leader above Israel’s security — has a problem.”

The government failed in its efforts on Wednesday to extend a law barring Palestinians who marry Israeli citizens from receiving citizenship.

Coalition chairman Idit Silman (Yamina) was forced to pull the measure from the Knesset Arrangements Committee agenda upon realizing that she did not have enough votes for it to pass. While the opposition parties, the Likud and Religious Zionism, support extending the law, they decided to embarrass the coalition by announcing ahead of time that they would not back the measure.

The new coalition sought the support of the opposition because the Islamist Ra’am party opposes the law and would not vote with its partners.

The process of family reunification for Palestinians has been made more stringent in recent years due to concerns it was being abused by terror groups to gain access to Israel.

Critics call the law racist and say it is an attempt by Israel to keep the number of Arab citizens down.

Likud MK Miki Zohar told coalition representatives that his party was prepared to support the law if the government backed his legislation to legalize dozens of outposts in Yehudah and Shomron. The majority of parties in the coalition oppose such measures expanding Israeli presence in Yehudah and Shomron.

Mocking the apparent early paralysis of the government, Zohar wrote that it “is simply unable to maintain the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked (Yamina) pledged to move forward with the legislation, saying it would be brought for a vote next week.

“I do not imagine that the opposition will harm the security of the country in the name of political games,” she tweeted. “I have no doubt that the head of the opposition [Binyamin Netanyahu] will keep his word that on matters of Israeli security ‘there is no opposition and no coalition. On these matters, we are all a united front.’”

Kan News reported that the government was working on a compromise with Ra’am in which it would present the party with a series of reforms to the law, in a bid to get its members to abstain.

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