DAVID BITAN seen at the Knesset last year.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Coalition chairman David Bitan (Likud) is considering submitting a bill that could enable removing the citizenship of Israelis who act against their country in international organizations.
Bitan’s effort comes in response to Hagai El-Ad, executive director of B’Tselem – The Israel Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories – testifying before the Security Council in New York earlier this month and urging the UN to take immediate action against Israel’s settlements.
“El-Ad’s actions at the Security Council are a blatant violation of the trust citizens must have for their country, so he should go find another country where he could be a citizen,” Bitan told Channel 2 on Friday.
After he faced criticism for the statement, Bitan shifted his goal from removing citizenship from El-Ad for actions that already took place to changing the law to prohibit such actions in the future, with citizenship removal remaining the punishment.
“I am not trying to harm freedom of expression,” Bitan wrote on his Facebook page on Saturday night. “I did not call to remove his citizenship because of his views on policy. What he did was go to a body that has special statutory authorities and call for action against Israel. This crossed a line from freedom of expression to betraying the state and its citizens.”
B’Tselem spokesman Amit Gilutz responded that neither his organization nor hundreds of thousands of opponents of Israeli “occupation” of the West Bank would be deterred by threats.
“The Palestinians do not have citizenship or rights for nearly 50 years,” Gilutz said. “Now, the coalition chairman, who is the emissary of the prime minister, wants to remove the citizenship of those who speak against this reality.”
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On accused Bitan of fighting B’Tselem to further his own public relations. She warned that his effort was endangering El-Ad’s life and called for El-Ad to be given police protection.
“Hunting season has apparently opened,” Gal-On said. “In a democracy, citizenship is a basic right. It is not a present granted to those who are liked by the coalition chairman.”
Surprisingly, Bayit Yehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich also criticized Bitan’s proposal, saying El-Ad crossed a red line but that removing citizenship was unacceptable.
Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi mocked Bitan on Twitter, saying: “Why stop at removing citizenship? Why not destroy the home of the B’Tselem director-general? Why not bar his entire family from entering the country, remove his land, submit them to administrative detention, and put checkpoints and closures in his neighborhood?”