Bill to deny citizenship passes Knesset vote

After initially supporting bill that would give authorities right to revoke citizenship of those convicted of terrorism, Shin Bet expresses opposition.

Yuval Diskin 311 (photo credit: Sivan Faraj )
Yuval Diskin 311
(photo credit: Sivan Faraj )
A controversial bill by MK David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu) that would permit courts or administrative authorities to strip Israelis of their citizenship if they were convicted of terror or espionage activities narrowly passed the Knesset’s Interior Committee Monday.
The stormy hearing, however, was dominated by fierce debate and by an apparent change of opinion by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), which was previously thought to support the legislation.
Rotem’s bill passed the committee narrowly, by a vote of 4-3, but due to a request filed by MK Dov Henin (Hadash) for a revision and revote, a second vote will be held in the committee before the bill is placed on the Knesset floor for its first reading.
The bill enjoyed committee support from UTJ and Likud MKs, but it is far from certain to pass the Knesset easily. An indication of the rocky road facing the controversial bill was the fact that Shas’s representative in the committee abstained from voting.
The Shin Bet reversed its opinion on the bill, stating during the Monday meeting that it opposed Rotem’s legislation.
During the previous hearing on the bill in the Interior Committee, the Shin Bet had said that it supported the legislation.
“After considering all of the aspects of the issue, the position of the Shin Bet is not to support the bill,” said a Justice Ministry representative speaking on behalf of the agency during the meeting. “To our understanding, the law in its current format offers an appropriate response to a need that only rarely arises, to revoke the citizenship of Israeli citizens in a way that creates deterrence.”
During the previous hearing on the bill, the organization’s representative said that although it did not specifically want to comment on the bill itself, “we think that the authority [to revoke citizenship] should exist.”
Committee chairman David Azoulay (Shas) blasted the Shin Bet’s reversal, calling it “an action that should not have been done.”
“They say one thing in one hearing, and now they are saying something else. It is unfortunate that this is the way things happen,” added Azoulay, who abstained from voting on the bill.
During the hearing, a fierce debate erupted between Rotem and Balad chairman Jamal Zahalka, in which Zahalka accused Rotem of being “a little fascist,” and Rotem responded that “you are a big traitor, not even a little traitor, who supports spies.”
“We are not your slaves or your serfs,” complained Zahalka. “You will not deny our citizenship. This is one more of your hate-laws. You are a member of a party that practices politics of hate.”
Rotem, in turn, claimed that Zahalka himself was a racist for assuming that the spies and terrorists punished by his bill would necessarily be Israeli Arabs.