Knesset fails to renew family reunification law as opposition MKs vote against government

by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent

(Worthy News) – After opposition MKs and a member of PM Naftali Bennet’s Yamina party voted against the new coalition government Tuesday, the Knesset failed to renew the temporary family reunification law which blocks the automatic granting of Israeli citizenship or residency to Palestinians who are married to Israeli citizens, the Times of Israel reports. Considered necessary to Israel’s security, the law has been renewed every year since its inception in 2003: that opposition MKs voted against its re-extension this time is understood as a political move to signal no confidence in the government.

Israel’s family reunification law was first passed after around 130,000 Palestinians entered Israel via family reunification between 1993 and 2003, including during the Second Intifada wave of Palestinian terrorism, the Times of Israel reports. Although the stated aim of the law was to defeat terrorism, the legislation was also a tool by which to limit the number of Palestinians that would become Israeli citizens: according to the Defense Ministry, around 200,000 Palestinians would become residents or citizens of Israel every decade if the law did not prevent it.

In the run-up to Tuesday’s 59-59 vote, when it was known that opposition MKs planned to vote against re-extending the law beyond the midnight on Tuesday deadline, Bennet accused those opposing it of jeopardizing state security for the sake of scoring political points. “There are things that you do not play with, state security is a red line and the state needs control over who enters it and who becomes a citizen,” Bennett said.”Bringing in thousands of Palestinians and naturalizing them harms state security, all for another political point,” Bennet added.

Nevertheless, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement Monday that the coalition government would remain intact even if the law was not extended. “This is not a big disaster, even if it does not pass, the cases will go to individual review in the Foreign Ministry. Governments do not fall or rise on it,” he said.

Prior to the vote, Lapid had acknowledged that the law itself was problematic. “Our partners from Ra’am and Meretz have presented quite a few cases in which the law caused unnecessary humanitarian damage,” Lapid said. We will establish a mechanism to reduce [such cases]. Israel is not only a Jewish state but a democratic one.”

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