(photo credit: Courtesy)
A bill that will make it easier to strip convicted spies, terrorists and
traitors of their Israeli citizenship was approved on Tuesday by the Knesset
Interior Committee, and will now go to the plenum for its second and third
The bill, sponsored by Israel Beiteinu MKs David Rotem and
Robert Ilatov, would allow courts to revoke the citizenship of people convicted
of terror acts, harm to Israel’s sovereignty, aiding an enemy during a time of
war, espionage or severe espionage, after being asked to do by the interior
Balad Chairman Jamal Zahalka slammed the bill during the
committee hearing, shortly before the panel approved the bill for its final
readings. He described the bill as populist and said that its goal was to harm
Arab citizens, adding that it was part of a dangerous trend.
called to stop the bill in committee, and received an unexpected leg up from the
legal counsel of the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) , who said that his
organization does not support the bill.
The Shin Bet attorney said that
there are enough provisions in existing law to strip citizens’ citizenship as
needed. He added that the bill itself was problematic and that Israeli Arabs
indeed believe that the law is aimed at them.
Committee Chairman David
Azoulai (Shas) said that “the Shin Bet’s statements are clear and their
significance is that this bill will do more harm than good.”
argued that the bill does not target Israeli Arabs, and that he and Ilatov had
carefully worded the bill to address this claim.
Rotem cited an
international agreement regarding removal of citizenship, claiming that the
clause allows states to defend themselves against criminals trying to undermine
Convinced that despite the Shin Bet’s reservations, the battle
against the bill was lost, Meretz, Hadash, and Balad MKs submitted a series of
amendments to the bill, including one changing the bill’s name to “the Lack of
Understanding of What Citizenship is Bill.”
The amendments all were
rejected by the committee, which passed the bill by a vote of 5-1. Azoulai was
the only coalition MK on the committee not to support the bill, abstaining from
the vote after accepting the Shin Bet’s position.
The bill’s sponsors
hope to bring the bill for its final readings before the conclusion of the
Knesset’s winter session at the end of this month. With coalition support, the
bill is likely to pass into law.