Yamina Seeks Second Vote on Citizenship Law

Arab MKs and UTJ MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni (back to camera) during the Knesset debate on the Citizenship Law, Monday night. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Despite the embarrassing defeat of the coalition-backed extension of the Citizenship Law, the Yamina party was getting ready for another try on Tuesday, before the existing law expires.

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked (Yamina), who had worked day and night to reach a compromise with recalcitrant coalition partners in order to gain passage, said she intended to bring the matter for another vote in the Knesset on Tuesday, according to The Times of Israel.

It was not immediately clear how she hoped to improve on the 59-59 outcome late Monday night in a long, raucous plenary session. The vote had been postponed twice before in recent days for lack of a majority; but coalition leaders, thinking they had enough votes on Monday night, evidently miscounted.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was still sputtering on Tuesday afternoon over the parliamentary fiasco, accusing the opposition of putting politics above national security.

“The opposition last night purposefully and directly harmed the state’s security. Out of some sort of spite and frustration, they damaged the country,” he charged.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Gideon Saar at the Knesset, Monday night. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Citizenship, a.k.a. family reunification law, blocks the automatic granting of Israeli citizenship or residency to Palestinians on the basis of marriage to an Israeli. The security establishment assesses that some 200,000 Palestinians would qualify for Israeli citizenship or residency each decade without the law, Channel 12 reported.

Ra’am MK Walid Taha shed some light on the behind-the-scenes of the previous night, explaining that he decided to vote for the bill Shaked promised major changes.

Taha told Channel 12 News that the law, which first passed in 2003, is “anti-democratic, anti-citizen,” but this year it arrived in a “completely different format.” He said that the Bennett-Lapid government promised “to reconsider all requests” for citizenship of Palestinians married to Israelis.

According to Taha, Shaked agreed to first handle 2,000 cases of citizenship requests, and then “to create a committee to deal with it on a permanent basis… we succeeded in coming to an agreement to change everything.”

Although Bennett said prior to the vote that his coalition would stand or fall on the outcome, the government did not fall. That’s because, in order to bring down a government and call new elections, the opposition must have a majority of 61 of the 120 MKs backing a designated candidate for prime minister, in a formal motion of no confidence in the government. Those conditions were not met.

Whether Bennett was aware of that, and intended his remark to be merely rhetorical, or not, was not immediately known.

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