Bill to strip Israeli citizenship from terror convicts paid by PA passes 1st reading

Lawmakers vote 89-8 in favor of legislation that would apply measure to those convicted of terror offenses who receive payments from the Palestinian Authority for their crimes

Security forces at the scene of a terror attack near Jerusalem's Old City on January 28, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Security forces at the scene of a terror attack near Jerusalem's Old City on January 28, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Garnering rare cross-Knesset support, a bill to revoke the Israeli citizenship or residency of terror convicts who receive financial support for their acts from the Palestinian Authority passed its first reading in the Knesset on Monday.

Coming up for a vote just days after a deadly terror attack outside a Jerusalem synagogue, the bill advanced 89-8. The proposed legislation also cleared its preliminary reading in mid-January with support from opposition lawmakers.

Introduced by MKs from the Religious Zionism and Likud parties, the bill will now move on to a joint forum of the Interior and House committees for further deliberation.

The bill applies to both Israeli citizens and permanent residents incarcerated following a terror conviction. The PA regularly pays stipends to convicted terrorists, and the bill also applies to those receiving payments made on the PA’s behalf by other organizations.

Explanatory notes for the legislation state that “it is unthinkable that citizens and residents of Israel who not only betrayed the Israeli state and society but even agreed to receive payment from the Palestinian Authority as a reward for carrying out the act of terrorism and continue to benefit from it, would continue to hold Israeli citizenship or residency.”

The bill adds that anyone who commits an act of terror or any other offense that “seriously harms the State of Israel” and then accepts a reward for it from the PA is “testifying that he renounces his status as a citizen or resident.”

Those stripped of citizenship or residency would be transferred to PA territory in the West Bank or Gaza Strip at the end of their prison sentence, on the assumption that anyone being paid by the Palestinian Authority is entitled to a status in its territory.

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

Likud MK Ofir Katz, who sponsored the bill, said it is “changing the equation.”

Katz declared an end to “the fun and games that existed until now when those who murder Jews receive a salary from the PA, come back here and receive candy.”

He accused anyone who voted against the bill — primarily Arab lawmakers — as being “supporters of terrorism.”

Fellow MK Sharren Haskel, also a sponsor of the legislation, said “deterrence is the most important thing in preventing attacks and further bloodshed, along with immediate punishment, as much as possible.”

However, MK Ofer Kasif, the lone Jewish lawmaker in the otherwise Arab Hadash-Ta’al opposition party said the bill was “racist from its roots,” as there has never been a suggestion to deny citizenship to Jewish terrorists.

“Denial of citizenship or residency is a fundamentally wrong, anti-democratic, and evil injustice,” he said. “It is all lust for revenge and hatred, which, beyond its injustice, will only lead to more violence and bloodshed.”

The Adalah Legal Center for Arab rights in Israel said in a statement “revocation of citizenship and permanent residency violates the most fundamental rights under international law.”

It further denounced the bill as “creating two separate legal tracks based on racial identity, as the state designed this measure to be used exclusively against Palestinians.”

The PA’s practice of paying allowances to those convicted in Israel of carrying out terror attacks and to the families of those killed while carrying out attacks — referred to by some Israeli officials as a pay-for-slay policy — has been pilloried by critics as incentivizing terror.

Palestinian leaders have long defended the payments, describing them as a form of social welfare and necessary compensation for victims of Israel’s military justice system in the West Bank.

Last March, a Palestinian official told the Times of Israel that the PA may have paid as much as NIS 600 million ($181 million) in 2020 in stipends to Palestinians imprisoned by Israel for security offenses — including terrorism — and their families.

Israel’s new government, widely regarded as its most right-wing ever, has vowed to crack down on Palestinian terrorism and isolate the PA, which many of its lawmakers consider a terror-inciting body.

Stripping convicted terrorists of their citizenship is not unheard of and has been implemented by other Western countries in the past. Legal and security experts, as well as human rights activists, however, have questioned the effectiveness of such measures for improving national security.

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