Yuval Diskin 311.
(photo credit: Sivan Faraj )
A controversial bill by MK David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu) that would permit
courts or administrative authorities to strip Israelis of their citizenship if
they were convicted of terror or espionage activities narrowly passed the
Knesset’s Interior Committee Monday.
The stormy hearing, however, was
dominated by fierce debate and by an apparent change of opinion by the Shin Bet
(Israel Security Agency), which was previously thought to support the
Rotem’s bill passed the committee narrowly, by a vote of
4-3, but due to a request filed by MK Dov Henin (Hadash) for a revision and
revote, a second vote will be held in the committee before the bill is placed on
the Knesset floor for its first reading.
The bill enjoyed committee
support from UTJ and Likud MKs, but it is far from certain to pass the Knesset
easily. An indication of the rocky road facing the controversial bill was the
fact that Shas’s representative in the committee abstained from
The Shin Bet reversed its opinion on the bill, stating during the
Monday meeting that it opposed Rotem’s legislation.
During the previous
hearing on the bill in the Interior Committee, the Shin Bet had said that it
supported the legislation.
“After considering all of the aspects of the
issue, the position of the Shin Bet is not to support the bill,” said a Justice
Ministry representative speaking on behalf of the agency during the meeting. “To
our understanding, the law in its current format offers an appropriate response
to a need that only rarely arises, to revoke the citizenship of Israeli citizens
in a way that creates deterrence.”
During the previous hearing on the
bill, the organization’s representative said that although it did not
specifically want to comment on the bill itself, “we think that the authority
[to revoke citizenship] should exist.”
Committee chairman David Azoulay
(Shas) blasted the Shin Bet’s reversal, calling it “an action that should not
have been done.”
“They say one thing in one hearing, and now they are
saying something else. It is unfortunate that this is the way things happen,”
added Azoulay, who abstained from voting on the bill.
During the hearing,
a fierce debate erupted between Rotem and Balad chairman Jamal Zahalka, in which
Zahalka accused Rotem of being “a little fascist,” and Rotem responded that “you
are a big traitor, not even a little traitor, who supports spies.”
are not your slaves or your serfs,” complained Zahalka. “You will not deny our
citizenship. This is one more of your hate-laws. You are a member of a party
that practices politics of hate.”
Rotem, in turn, claimed that Zahalka
himself was a racist for assuming that the spies and terrorists punished by his
bill would necessarily be Israeli Arabs.