Knesset Cracks Down on Arab Citizenship-by-Marriage

The Knesset passed two laws Wednesday limiting the ability of Palestinian Authority (PA) Arabs to use the Israeli legal system to create an influx of new Arab citizens.

Ezra HaLevi, | updated: 09:40

Following warnings from the head of the Shabak (General Security Service), the Knesset passed a law Wednesday partially limiting the ability of Palestinian Authority residents to receive Israeli citizenship by marrying Israeli Arabs.

In an appearance Tuesday before the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee, Shabak chief Yuval Diskin said that a full 11 percent of PA Arabs involved in terrorist activities had entered Israeli cities as part of the "family reunification" procedures in place. He also said that 99 percent of Arabs involved in terrorism were males between the ages of 16 and 35, and females under the age of 25.

The 59-12 Knesset decision on Wednesday loosened restrictions on PA residents, granting citizenship to men over the age of 35 and women over the age of 25 who marry Israelis. Simultaneously, it partially turned into law the temporary ban on PA residents below those ages gaining Israeli citizenship through marriage.

In effect, any Arab resident of the PA or any other Arab country need only wait until they are past the age limits specified at which point they can marry an Israeli Arab and receive Israeli citizenship.

The temporary ban on PA residents acquiring Israeli citizenship via marriage to Israelis was set to expire on July 31st.

The Family Reunification law, which was amended, outlines the conditions by which the Interior Minister is to grant permanent resident status to Arabs in Judea and Samaria who have family members within Israel's pre-1967 borders.

The Knesset decision was harshly criticized by Arab and left-wing MKs.

National Religious Party chairman MK Zevulun Orlev said his party supported the law as it was the least objectionable option in order to stem the threat to a Jewish majority in Israel.

Due to the new regulations, about 30% of family reunification requests will now be approved, granting 1,600 Arabs Israeli citizenship.

A second law aimed at limiting the legal vulnerability of the State of Israel presented Wednesday was the Damages Law, also known as "The Intifada Law," which passed its second and third Knesset readings by a vote of 54-15, with one abstention.

The law, proposed by the Ministries of Defense and Justice following thousands of PA lawsuits against the state, establishes that "the state is not responsible for damage done to someone who is the subject of an enemy state, or someone who is a member of a terrorist group, or someone who was hurt while working on behalf of either one."

The law, which takes effect retroactively from September, 2000, remedies the bizarre situation by which Israel was often forced to pay for damage incurred by both Israelis and PA residents as a result of the four-year terror offensive.

PA Arabs may still sue the State of Israel for damages in cases where an IDF soldier is convicted of traffic-related offenses and when a PA resident suffers physical harm while in the custody of security forces. There will also be a committee that will take appeals of courts' rejections of Arab claims.

Meretz/Yahad MKs denounced the bill as "a stain on Israel's law books."


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