Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuLiron Moldovan/POOL/Flash90

Likud heads of local authorities from “mixed” Arab-Jewish cities are reportedly furious at the intention of opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu to vote against the extension of the Citizenship Law, and to instruct the Likud party and other parties in the opposition to follow suit.

The local authority heads argue that if the temporary law that was first passed in 2003 during the Second Intifada is not extended, mixed cities will be the first to suffer the consequences – namely, a huge influx of the Palestinian-Arab spouses of Arab-Israeli citizens who will become eligible for citizenship or permanent residency rights.

The Citizenship Law, also known as the Family Reunification Law, revokes the otherwise quasi-automatic right to citizenship for the spouses of citizens who live in Judea, Samaria, or Gaza, and has been supported by right-wing parties since it was first legislated, with security assessments confirming its importance over the years.

Despite the lack of a majority in the Knesset in favor of extending the law, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked insists that the issue will be put to a vote on Monday in the Knesset plenum without any change to its language. Attempts to reach a compromise with the Meretz and United Arab List parties, both members of the coalition, have so far failed, despite threats that if the extension is not approved, the opposition may force the government to consider making the law a permanent fixture.

Although the Likud and Religious Zionism parties are still insisting that they will oppose the extension of the law, coalition members remain hopeful that at the last minute, they will relent, out of a sense of duty to the State.

“The temporary law expires on Tuesday, and therefore it has to be put to a vote tomorrow,” said Interior Minister Shaked on Sunday, as she entered a cabinet meeting. “The opposition leaders are aware of the assessment of the ISA [Shabak], made less than a month ago, and they understand why this law has to pass.”

Bolstering Shaked’s argument was attorney-general Dr. Avichai Mandelblit, who noted that if the law is not extended on Monday, the practical result will be that thousands of Palestinians will be able to enter Israel in order to take advantage of the family reunification privileges they will become entitled to.

Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel (New Hope) was also highly critical of the intentions of the opposition parties to vote based on political rather than security considerations.

“The Family Reunification Law must pass, and anyone who works against it is collaborating with the Joint List and Balad,” Hendel said, referencing two predominantly Arab parties.

“It doesn’t make any difference if they have political reasons for not wishing to vote in favor,” he added. “This issue is primarily a source of embarrassment for the opposition. For years, they have been calling themselves right-wing and have nonetheless been prepared to damage nationalist interests as long as they do us harm in the process. I hope that they come to their senses,” he concluded.

Meanwhile, attempts to reach a compromise with renegade members of the coalition are reportedly continuing.