JERUSALEM, Tuesday, January 31, 2023 (WAFA) - The Israeli parliament, the Knesset, yesterday passed the first reading of a bill to revoke the citizenship or permanent residency of Palestinians who committed a “terrorist act” and received money from the Palestinian Authority in relation to “terrorist acts” and deport them to the Palestinian Authority. The bill passed with 89 votes, with extensive support from both the coalition and opposition. Three readings are required for the bill to become law.
Reacting to this bill, Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, said the bill seeks to further expand Israel’s longstanding policy of creating two separate legal tracks for citizenship based on racial identity, as this measure is designed to be used exclusively against Palestinians.
On 29 January Adalah sent a letter to Israeli Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, the Knesset's legal adviser Sagit Afik, the chairman of the Knesset Joint Committee discussing the bill (the House Committee and the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee), and the acting Interior Minister MK Michael Malkieli calling on them to act immediately to prevent the advancement of the proposed bill.
The bill was first introduced on 9 January 2023 and yesterday a revised proposed bill was discussed in a joint Knesset committee, which approved the expedited legislative process.
The proposed bill introduces two similar amendments to the Entry Into Israel Law (No. 5712-1952) and the Citizenship Law, which authorize the revocation of permanent residency or citizenship of an individual who was convicted of an offense that constitutes an “act of terrorism”, as defined in Israel’s 2016 Counter-Terrorism Law, and received compensation from the Palestinian authorities for the offense.
This bill has been introduced pursuant to the coalition agreements – in which the new government committed to advance legislation to revoke the residency and citizenship of alleged terrorists and their accomplices, and expel “terrorists”.
The bill prescribes that the Interior Minister is authorized to revoke the permanent residency of a person who has been convicted of committing an act of terrorism and has been sentenced to prison, if it is proved to the satisfaction of the Minister of Interior that he has received payment from the Palestinian Authority for committing the act. The proposed bill further prescribes that in the case of a citizen, the Minister of Interior will file a request to a court for the revocation of citizenship that shall not be refused unless under “exceptional circumstances”.
The bill further states that a person whose citizenship or permanent residency has been revoked will be deported at the end of his prison sentence to the Palestinian Authority territories. The proposed bill thus goes even further than the existing track of revocation of citizenship or residency by authorizing Israeli authorities to expel Palestinian citizens of Israel from their homeland, according to Adalah.
The Israeli Supreme Court upheld the existing route to revoke citizenship for ‘breach of loyalty’ - clearly targeting Palestinians in a judgment from July 2022. This track (prescribed by Article 11(b)(2) of Israel’s Citizenship Law) allows the Interior Minister, upon the approval of a court, to revoke the citizenship of a person who has committed an act that constitutes “breach of loyalty to the State of Israel.”
In the letter, Adalah Attorney Salam Irsheid argued that the law targets exclusively Palestinians, as evidenced in both the wording of the bill – which specifically references the Palestinian Authority – and in the explanatory notes attached to the original bill, which stipulate that “a citizen or resident whose status is revoked in accordance with the law will be released from prison directly to the territories of the Palestinian Authority... [they] consider themselves Palestinians”, as well as in statements made by various members of Knesset in the discussions of the bill. For instance, MK Hanoch Milwidsky stated in this context: “I prefer Jewish murderers to Arab murderers and as a general rule in the Jewish state I prefer Jews to disloyal Arabs here.” Likud MK Nissim Vaturi also stated during a Knesset discussion on 17 January 2023 that “they come crying to us all only about revoking citizenship. Wait, we haven't talked about the death penalty yet.”
Adalah argued that the bill severely violates fundamental rights by revoking citizenship and permanent residency, which are the basis for other constitutional rights including the right to human dignity and liberty and the ability to have and maintain family life. Adalah emphasized that the purpose of the proposed bill is punitive, and is thus illegal.
Adalah responded: “Revocation of citizenship and permanent residency violates the most fundamental rights under international law. This bill seeks to further expand Israel’s longstanding policy of creating two separate legal tracks based on racial identity, as the state designed this measure to be used exclusively against Palestinians.”