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Knesset Extends Law Forbidding Palestinians Married to Israelis From Living in Jewish State

The legislation was introduced as a temporary security measure in 2003, and will now be subject to deeper discussion

Jas Chana
June 22, 2015

Last week, the Knesset renewed a contentious law that prevents Palestinians who marry Israelis from both receiving Israeli citizenship and from living within the Jewish State. The law was first adopted by Israel’s parliament in 2003 as an emergency security measure, as a means to prevent potential terrorists from manipulating marriage laws as a way of entering the country. Despite the fact the law was intended only to be a temporary measure, it has been renewed each year since 2003. The Independent reported that the renewal of the law was supported by 57 MKs, while 20 voted against, and 5 abstained.

However, in response to its continuous renewal, MK Merav Michaeli of the Zionist Union Party successfully requested that support for the law should have to go beyond the Knesset for it to be accepted. According to Israel’s I24 news, from now on a joint panel of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and its Internal Affairs and Environment Committee will hold hearings about the government’s annual request to extend the law.

As it stands, the effects of the law are highly controversial. Its backers reiterate the initial security concerns, arguing that without the legislation, Israel’s marriage provisions can be easily be exploited, as they were in the past. According to I24, Interior Minister Silvan Shalom of Likud commented that

An examination of the security situation since the armed confrontation between Israel and the Palestinians broke out shows growing involvement of Palestinians residing in the region, who took advantage of their status in Israel as a result of family-reunification processes to become involved in terrorist activities, including aiding in carrying out suicide attacks.

However, the law’s opponents consider the rule to be an example of Israeli racism towards Palestinians, pointing out that it automatically places every Palestinian who wants to marry an Israeli under the suspicion of being a threat to the Jewish state. The Independent reports that even though a Israeli-Palestinian couple can be legally married they would have to live in their separate countries “that are very difficult to pass between.”

MK Zehava Galon of the Meretz party said, “What this bill says is that every Arab citizen becomes a potential terrorist.”

The reality of the law is that it ignores the possibility that an Israeli and Palestinian would want to get married for honest and pure reasons. A comment from MK Aida Touma-Suleiman of the Joint Arab party reflected this sentiment. And I24 reports that she described her daughter’s relationship with a “young white, blond man from Holland.”

“I don’t want to think about what would have happened if she had fallen in love with a Palestinian,” she said.

Jas Chana is a former intern at Tablet.