Ayelet Shaked
Ayelet ShakedShalev Shalom/TPS

Following the government’s loss of the Knesset vote that would have extended the Citizenship Law for another year, the implications became apparent to all: potentially tens of thousands of new Israeli citizens, in the form of the spouses of Israeli Arabs, previously barred from obtaining citizenship or permanent residency by a law that was first introduced in 2003.

According to a report in Haaretz, however, the Interior Ministry, headed by Yamina’s MK Ayelet Shaked, is dealing with the issue by simply refusing to deal with it. Arab-Israelis attempting to apply to the Population and Immigration Authority for citizenship for their Palestinian Authority-Arab spouses are being told that until new policies are formulated to deal with the situation, their applications will not be dealt with. Reportedly, this decision comes from Minister Shaked herself.

During the period when the law was in effect, applications for citizenship were automatically rebuffed, unless the Interior Minister chose to make an exception — which did happen, in a significant number of cases. Now that the law has expired, each application is supposed to be considered, with the applicant first being vetted by the Israel Security Agency (Shabak) and then, if cleared, automatically gaining citizenship, unless the Interior Minister decides otherwise.

According to the report in Haaretz, however, applicants are currently being told that, “At this point, we are unable to make new appointments, until we receive further instructions.”

Approached for comment, the Population & Immigration Authority stated: “The expiry of the Citizenship Law (temporary) has had significant consequences for the manner of operations in the Authority. Until new and suitable policies are formulated, requests to extend existing licenses for applicants whose requests are already in the process of receiving approval will be extended. New applications for those wishing to commence the process of receiving status will be dealt with once new policies are formulated, as will requests to upgrade residency status.”