Controversial right-wing citizenship bill advanced by ministers

Pension raise for IDF officers advanced.

THE KNESSET building in Jerusalem holds one of the world’s smallest legislatures. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
THE KNESSET building in Jerusalem holds one of the world’s smallest legislatures.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

In a rare move, the Ministerial Committee on Legislation voted Sunday to advance a bill sponsored by the opposition, the citizenship bill of MK Simcha Rothman (Religious Zionist Party).

The controversial bill would tighten immigration controls and make it harder for Palestinians who marry Israeli Arabs to receive citizenship. The passage of a bill backed by right-wing parties and opposed by Meretz and Ra’am (United Arab List) was seen as a first step toward the formation of a right-wing government if opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu accepts a plea agreement.

“It’s the same law that the government wanted to pass with two additions,” Rothman said. “The government would have to regularly report to the Knesset how many new approvals there are for family reunifications and humanitarian exceptions. There would also be a quota set based on what was approved over the last two years so the government would not be able to be extorted by Ra’am.”

The bill is expected to be legislated quickly and brought for final readings by the end of the month to satisfy a demand of the High Court of Justice.

Ministers Tamar Zandberg (Meretz), Karin Elharrar (Yesh Atid) and Merav Cohen (Yesh Atid) were the only ministers who voted against the bill. Nachman Shai (Labor) abstained. Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid appealed the decision to the full cabinet.

 INTERIOR MINISTER Ayelet Shaked speaks at last month’s Jerusalem Post Conference. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST) INTERIOR MINISTER Ayelet Shaked speaks at last month’s Jerusalem Post Conference. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

An argument broke out in the meeting between Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked (Yamina), who said she had no choice but to pass the bill with the opposition’s support, and Zandberg, who said such a controversial issue required compromises within the government. Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar (New Hope) told Zandberg that passing the bill was inevitable and it was in her best interest to maintain a low profile.

The Ministerial Committee on Legislation also voted Sunday to advance a plan to invest 500 million shekels in pensions for IDF retirees. There will be a seven percent rise in the pensions of soldiers who retire at 42 until they reach the official retirement age of 67.

The raise was controversial because regular soldiers in compulsory service make around NIS 900 a month for a non-combat soldier and NIS 1,600 for a combat soldier.

An Israel Democracy Institute report that came out last week showed public trust in the IDF had dropped by 12% in two years, to its lowest level in 14 years.

A bill sponsored by Likud MK Shlomo Karhi that would change the Law of Return to exclude those without Jewish parents was defeated.