Is Libya an enemy country? The law isn’t so clear

Orlev calls to bar visiting MKs from reelection.

April 27, 2010 09:46
3 minute read.

Gaddafi 224.88. (photo credit: AP)


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According to MK Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi), the six Israeli Arab leaders who are currently visiting Libya should be barred from running for election to the next Knesset.

However, the Knesset laws don’t, in effect, mention Libya by name when delineating which countries are officially enemies of Israel.

In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Orlev referred to an amendment to the Basic Law: The Knesset, which he and former MK Esterina Tartman (Israel Beiteinu) initiated in the previous Knesset.

Article 7a of the law presents a list of criteria for banning political parties or individuals from running for parliament. According to the criteria established by the amendment, “a candidate who stayed over in an enemy country over the seven years preceding the presentation of the list of candidates will be regarded as someone who, by his actions, supports the terrorist struggle against Israel unless he proves otherwise.”

The amendment does not define what an enemy country is. A footnote to it, however, cites two laws in which a number of Arab countries are mentioned, though even in this case they are not defined as enemy countries.

The first is the 1954 Law against Infiltration, which, in its definition of an infiltrator, includes citizens or residents of Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Yemen. Two other countries, Egypt and Jordan, were removed from the list after they signed peace treaties with Israel.

The other law referred to in the footnote is the Citizenship Law, which states that “the Administrative Court may, at the request of the minister of interior, cancel the Israeli citizenship of a person who… perpetrated an act which involves breach of faith to the State of Israel.”

One of the acts classified as a breach of faith is “obtaining citizenship or the right to settle permanently in… Iran, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Libya, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and the area of the Gaza Strip.” This provision is included in an amendment to the 1952 Citizenship Law passed in 2008, and therefore constitutes a more up-to-date list of countries that Israel considers hostile.

Here, too, the countries are not defined as “enemy countries,” yet their clear link to Orlev’s amendment is obvious.

Still, the issue remains confusing. According to the current provisional amendment to the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law, first approved in 2006 and still in force, a ban on initiating procedures for family reunification for Palestinian men under the age of 35 and Palestinian women under the age of 25 was extended to include citizens and residents of four Arab countries – Iran, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. In this case, too, the countries were not specifically classified as “enemy states.”

Orlev himself is not particularly concerned with legal acrobatics.

“How do I know Libya is an enemy country?” he responded to a question from the Post. “Because [Libyan leader] Muammar Gaddafi wants to destroy Israel. He has declared war on Israel more than once. He wants to eliminate it. The same with Iran, Iraq and Syria. They are conducting war against Israel, they support terrorism, and they want Israel to disappear.”

Orlev was unable to cite a specific law that supported his position, but said, “I’ve been told that there are several mentions of Libya in the statute books. I don’t know exactly where. I tried to speak to the legal adviser of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee about the matter, but he was unavailable.”

According to constitutional law expert Yaffa Zilbershatz, the law is clear on this point: It is illegal to travel to Libya.

In an interview with the Post, she cited the Order to Extend the Emergency Defense Regulations (Going Abroad) 1948. The law specifically states that “no one may go to any of the countries listed in the Prevention of Infiltration Law unless he receives a permit from the minister of interior, nor will an Israel citizen or resident enter any one of these countries in any way without a permit.”

As said earlier, the countries mentioned in the Prevention of Infiltration Law include Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq or Yemen. However, Zilbershatz said there was an annex to the law which lists other countries, including Libya.

If the government decides to arrest the six MKs in accordance with the Basic Law: The Knesset, there is no doubt that the matter will reach the High Court for a definitive interpretation of the existing hodge-podge of legislation.

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