Knesset Votes to Re-ban Palestinian Family Unification

Israel’s coalition passed a racist law, “Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law“, effectively barring Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza who are married to Israeli citizens from gaining citizenship or residency on Thursday, in a fraught final session before the Knesset breaks for recess.

Joint List MKs Ayman Odeh, Ofer Cassif and Osama Saadi during a protest against the “Citizenship Law” outside the Knesset on February 2022 (Photo: Zo Haderech)

The bill, spearheaded by far-right Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, enshrines in law a temporary amendment that had been renewed annually since 2003, but expired in July as the coalition failed to gather the votes to renew it in a key early hurdle for the coalition. The Joint List in the opposition, again sought to precipitate a coalition crisis by declaring the vote a motion of no-confidence.

The bill passed with 45 votes in favor and 15 against, with both the United Arab List and Meretz of the coalition opposing the law.  After the passage of the bill, Ayelet Shaked declared victory for a “Jewish and democratic state” over a “state of all its citizens.” The latter phrase is often used by Arab-Palestinians citizens of Israel to refer to aspirations for equality. The chairman of the Joint List, MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash), retweeted Shaked, calling it a victory for “an apartheid state.”

Lawmaker Odeh said, “The family reunification law is not a security law, it is a racist law. Thousands of people who live in the country and do not harm its security, live without basic rights and without the ability to work because of this cruel law. I am ashamed that Arab Members of Knesset and MKs Knesset from the left, who can prevent the law, prefer to abandon their humanity to preserve the coalition.” 

According to Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, “Israel’s Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law is one of the most racist and discriminatory laws in the world. No other state bans its citizens from exercising their basic right to family life, based solely on their national or ethnic identity. For 18 years, the Knesset has repeatedly renewed the ban, and the state has defended the legality of the measure before the Israeli Supreme Court using unsubstantiated and baseless security arguments. This facade has finally been removed, as the Law’s current initiators have not, even for a moment, hidden their goal, which is to maintain a Jewish majority. The legislators based the legitimacy of their actions on the 2018 Jewish Nation-State Law, which constitutionally enshrines Jewish supremacy over Palestinians. We will challenge this Law before the Israeli Supreme Court, and the justices will now have to decide whether, when faced with the Law’s explicit language, they will continue to allow this racist Law to be protected under the eternal pretext of temporality.”