Law granting residency rights to settlers passes Knesset in 1st reading

The bill allows settlers to enjoy full residency rights in Israel, even though technically they live outside its sovereign borders.

 PM Netanyahu with several of his ministers at the swearing-in ceremony of the new government in the Knesset, December 29 2022. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
PM Netanyahu with several of his ministers at the swearing-in ceremony of the new government in the Knesset, December 29 2022.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

A bill granting Israeli residency rights to West Bank settlers, passed the Knesset 58-13 in a first reading that occurred after midnight on Tuesday.

The bill, which is approved every five years, allows settlers to enjoy full residency rights in Israel, even though technically they live outside its sovereign borders.

The Knesset legislation had been largely ignored for decades, when Right wing parties who otherwise have approved the bill, voted against it as a successful ploy to bring down the government in June.

The government’s collapse allowed the residency rights to remain in place until a elections were held and a new coalition was formed.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government approved the legislation on Sunday and it went before the Knesset plenum on Monday.

 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the beginning of his party's faction meeting. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the beginning of his party's faction meeting. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

What are the next steps?

The legislation now moves to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee before it returns to the plenum for a second and third reading.

Failure to pass the bill, would likely bringing civilian life in the settlements to a standstill, given that that this legislation cover ever aspect of their personal lives and grants them the ability to receive drivers license, marriage license, work within Israel and receive health and education benefits. 

Opposition lawmakers who supported the legislation noted that they had taken the high road, whereas right-wing legislators in the last Knesset had acted against their own national interests by felling the legislation for political gain.

MK Gideon Sa’ar (National Unity) said, the opposition erred in June when it “acted against the national interest and overthrew this law.” Now that he is in the opposition, Sa’ar said, he plans to vote in favor of the legislation. “We are an opposition to the government, but not an opposition to the state and its vital interests.”Education Minister Yoav Kisch marveled at how the law how been so well timed in June to bring down what had been a dangerous and failed government.

The Labor party, which opposed the regulation said that the political situation had changed so that a bill, which had once designated Israel’s temporary presence in the West Bank had now become symbolic of the government’s desire to apply sovereignty to the settlements.

“Unlike previous governments, which understood that this was a temporary arrangement on the way to a political solution, given the composition of the current government, where the Civil Administration is subordinated to [Finance Minister Bezalel] Smotrich’s control, these are regulations for annexation that are opposed to Zionism,” the Labor party said in a statement.