C'tee okays bill that lets communities reject newcomers

Arab MKs charge that the bill is racist and aimed at preventing Israeli Arabs from being accepted in Jewish communities.

Rotem 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski/The Jerusalem Post))
Rotem 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski/The Jerusalem Post))
The Knesset Law Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill that would let small communal settlements in the Negev and the Galilee reject would-be newcomers if they are unsuitable on various grounds for life in the community.
The bill will now be sent to the plenum for second and final readings.
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The two Arab committee members, Hanna Sweid (Hadash) and Taleb a-Sanaa (United Arab List-Ta’al) stormed out of the chamber in the middle of the vote after seeing that the bill’s supporters had a clear majority.
The final vote was six in favor of the draft, and none against. Those who voted for the bill were Shai Hermesh and Yisrael Hasson (Kadima), Avraham Michaeli (Shas), Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi) and committee chairman David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu).
Arab and left-wing MKs charged that the bill was racist and aimed to prevent Arabs from being accepted in Jewish communities, even though the land is state-owned.
The bill would apply to all communities in the Negev and the Galilee with 500 or fewer families. It states that the allocation of a plot of land on which to build a home will be conditional on the approval of an admissions committee, if the community has one.
It also determines the composition of the committee, which must include two representatives of the settlement, a member of the movement to which the community belongs, a representative of the Jewish Agency or the World Zionist Organization, and a representative of the regional council.
The bill lists the acceptable grounds for turning down an applicant who wants to join the community. These include:
• The candidate is not suitable for social life in the community. A decision to refuse a candidate on these grounds shall be based on an expert opinion.
• The candidate does not match the social-cultural fabric of the settlement, and there is reason to assume he might harm it.
• Unique characteristics of the communal settlement or admission terms as stipulated in the association’s codex, if there are any, provided they are approved by the registrar.
The bill also stipulates that “the admissions committee may not turn down a candidate based on reasons of race, religion, gender, nationality or handicap.”
The left-wing and Arab MKs proposed several changes to the draft of the bill that was presented to the committee by Rotem for a vote.
Several demanded that the bill apply only to communities with 50 families or less.
MK Dov Henin (Hadash) demanded that instead of having a Jewish Agency or WZO representative on the admissions committee, there should be an Arab, a woman or some other minority representative.
Sanaa demanded to know on the basis of what criteria the committee could determine who was socially suitable for the community.
“The bill is bad, harmful, and injurious and has nothing positive about it,” Henin said.
“The bill is a great provocation and is being legislated in bad faith,” added Sweid.
When Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al) charged that the bill was aimed at Israeli Arabs, Rotem, who appears to enjoy baiting the Arab lawmakers, replied, “That isn’t true. Every Jewish community needs one Arab resident. Otherwise, who will repair the refrigerator that breaks down on Shabbat?”
Tibi did not find the comment funny.