'Citizenship Bill' passes c'tee hurdles, heading for vote

Despite Shin Bet objection that law is necessary, problematic, MK Rotem's law heads for 2nd, 3rd reading in Knesset plenum

March 15, 2011 20:59
2 minute read.

Knesset. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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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 readings.

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 minister.

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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.

Zahalka 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.”

But Rotem 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 the state.

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.

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