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Coalition fells opposition’s immigration legislation in preliminary vote

Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rotman had been negotiating with Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked over the bill, but they failed to reach agreement

Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rotman is seen during a plenum session in the assembly hall of the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on October 13, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rotman is seen during a plenum session in the assembly hall of the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on October 13, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A bill introduced by Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rotman aimed at changing the Law of Return and revising Israeli immigration policies failed to muster parliamentary support in a preliminary vote on Wednesday.

The immigration bill proposed by the opposition MK, had been under negotiation with Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked in recent days, in an attempt to see it passed without the support of left-wing coalition parties.

But on Tuesday, talks between Rotman and Shaked reportedly fell apart, and the bill was brought to a vote without any support from the coalition’s Yamina party.

The legislation, which has been introduced, but abandoned in the past, aims to limit and restrict immigration to Israel, and provide the state with greater capabilities in deporting those in the country illegally, as well as limit the eligibility for temporary residency, permanent residency and citizenship.

It would also provide the Knesset with the power to revoke residency or citizenship and give the state the ability to seize money brought in by those who enter the country illegally.

The bill failed 45-57, with coalition MKs, including Yamina, voting against the law.

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked speaks during a Yamina faction meeting at the Knesset on July 5, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Yamina MK Nir Orbach said the Religious Zionism party was “playing small political [games] for their campaign, instead of taking care of the security interests of Israel,” referring to right-wing opposition parties themselves torpedoing a bill previously proposed by the coalition to renew measures barring Palestinians who marry Israeli citizens from receiving citizenship.

Right-wing opposition parties strongly proposed the measure, which had been in place for years and was renewed regularly, but voted against renewing it in order to embarrass Yamina and the coalition.

As the bill was being debated Wednesday, Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich called Arab lawmakers “enemies” in an angry outburst in the Knesset plenum.

“I’m not talking to you — anti-Zionists, terror supporters, enemies. You’re here by accident because [Israel’s first prime minister David] Ben-Gurion didn’t finish the job,” he said in comments directed at Arab MKs.

Religious Zionism party head Bezalel Smotrich addresses a Knesset plenum session on the state budget on September 2, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Joint List lawmaker Aida Touma-Sliman hit back at Smotrich, saying that “we absorb this fascist filth every day in the Knesset.”

“But do not think of us. Think of how every Arab citizen feels when such a statement is said casually in parliament. How does a young man or woman feel when the right threatens a second Nakba?” Touma-Sliman added, using the Arabic word for disaster, which Palestinians use to refer to the founding of the State of Israel.

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