Arab MK Ahmad Tibi blasts 'fundamentally racist legislation'

Bid to revoke citizenship of PA-paid terror convicts advances with opposition’s help

Likud MK ties initiative to ending veneration of terrorists as heroes among Arab Israelis, after killer Karim Younis’s jubilant homecoming last week

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

Arab Israeli Karim Younis is carried by friends and relatives following his release after 40 years in an Israeli prison for kidnapping and murdering an Israeli soldier, on January 5, 2023, in the northern Israeli town of 'Ara. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)
Arab Israeli Karim Younis is carried by friends and relatives following his release after 40 years in an Israeli prison for kidnapping and murdering an Israeli soldier, on January 5, 2023, in the northern Israeli town of 'Ara. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

With broad support from over 70 lawmakers, legislation that will revoke the citizenship or residency of convicted terrorists who are remunerated by the Palestinian Authority cleared its preliminary reading on the Knesset floor on Wednesday.

The bill applies to both Israeli citizens and permanent residents incarcerated following a terror conviction. The Palestinian Authority regularly pays stipends to convicted terrorists, and the bill also applies to organizations that pay out on the PA’s behalf.

Notching a rare reprieve from coalition-opposition acrimony, centrist and right-wing opposition lawmakers joined coalition MKs to submit seven similar citizenship revocation bills, which will be whittled done to a unified proposal in the committee review process.

The first of four votes necessary before becoming a law, the preliminary reading followed the release last week of Karim Younis, Israel’s longest-serving terror convict, after 40 years of imprisonment.

Likud MK Ofir Katz, who presented the leading bill proposal, tied the initiative to stopping the veneration of terrorists as heroes among Arab Israelis. Younis, who killed IDF soldier Avraham Bromberg in 1980, was feted in his hometown of ‘Ara.

“We’ve all seen these celebrations and there’s no Israeli whose stomach hasn’t churned. We must end these celebrations. Though we cannot bring back the murdered, we can at least spare the bereaved families the pain of these celebrations. Those who come next will know that the celebration is over; they are not returning here but to Ramallah or Gaza,” Katz said.

Likud MK Ofir Katz chairs a special committee in the Knesset, December 25, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Addressing the plenum in lieu of Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, whose ministry is most connected to the bill, Transportation Minister Miri Regev said that “terrorists should rot in prison without any rights.”

“Who can imagine that a terrorist receives rights from the state, social security, income support, studies? This is something that does not happen in any country in the world,” Regev claimed.

The citizenship debate comes in the shadow of a lingering terror wave and alleged under-policing that have catapulted internal security to the fore of Israelis’ concerns. However, lawmaker Ahmad Tibi, representing majority-Arab party Hadash-Ta’al, said that the citizenship revocation bill is “racist” and was designed to apply only to Arabs.

“There is a trick in this bill aimed at making it apply only to Arabs. None of you thought of applying the law to [former prime minister] Rabin’s murderer or the murderers of the Dawabsha family or Abu Khdeir,” Tibi said, pointing to three nationally motivated murderers committed by Jewish terrorists.

MK Ahmad Tibi speaks in the Knesset plenum during a memorial ceremony marking 27 years since the assassination of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, November 6, 2022. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

“This is fundamentally racist legislation,” Tibi added.

In a committee discussion earlier this week, a Likud MK told Tibi that he preferred Jewish murderers to Arab murderers, when Tibi raised the same point.

“Citizenship is a treaty between the state and the citizen, and payments are not a reason to revoke citizenship. For the act of murder there is a court that judges people,” Tibi, a former adviser to then-PA chairman Yasser Arafat and longtime Knesset lawmaker, insisted.

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