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Gov't Cuts Short Controversial Arab Citizenship Debate

Cabinet debate on requiring would-be citizens & permanent residents to swear allegiance to “Jewish and democratic" Israel to resume on Monday.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 7/18/2010, 6:48 PM / Last Update: 7/18/2010, 8:00 PM

Flash 90

The Cabinet appeared likely Sunday to approve a change to the Citizenship Law, requiring those who wish to become citizens and permanent residents to swear allegiance to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state.” However, the debate on the issue was cut off when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had to leave for his pre-scheduled meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

The change is aimed at weeding out thousands of Arabs from Gaza, and from Judea and Samaria as well, who plan on becoming Israeli citizens by marrying Israeli-Arabs. It is estimated that tens of thousands of Arabs from Israel are currently married to Arabs from the PA-controlled territories.

Though the mixed-Arab families, via the Palestinian Authority and civil rights organizations, claim it is an anti-democratic law, government ministers explain that the step is necessary in light of the dangers inherent in having to grant citizenship to Arabs, especially those from Gaza.

Other changes in the law, if they are passed, will similarly make it harder for Gazan Arabs to obtain Israeli citizenship. For instance, the children of marriages between Israeli-Arabs and Gazans will not be granted citizenship; a cooling-off period must occur, outside of Israel, between the time one was in Israel illegally and the time he receives citizenship or permanent residence; and more.

Left-wing politicians said the changes are anti-democratic and anti-liberal, and will lead to increased international isolation for Israel.