Moroccan party drops bill to strip emigrants to settlements of citizenship

After speaking to Jewish leader, lawmaker admits proposal had been effort to appease visiting Hamas leader

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

Ilyas El Omari speaks to reporters on May 27, 2017. (Screen capture/YouTube)
Ilyas El Omari speaks to reporters on May 27, 2017. (Screen capture/YouTube)

A Moroccan political party recently withdrew legislation that sought to strip citizens who moved to Jerusalem or Israeli settlements of their citizenship.

The bill was proposed by the head of the Party of Authenticity and Modernity (PAM), Ilyas El Omari. His center-left faction is the largest in the opposition.

El Omari announced his intention to propose the legislation days after meeting with Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal, who was in Rabat late last month for meetings with representatives from the Islamist government.

But an outcry from the Morocco’s Jewish community led El Omari to rethink his position. The PAM leader requested a meeting last Thursday with Simon Skira, the secretary-general of the Federation of Moroccan Jews in France who had been among the leaders of the campaign against the legislation.

Construction of new housing in the settlement of Maale Adumim on September 25, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“I explained to him (El Omari) that there are currently 800,000 people with Moroccan citizenship living in Israel,” Skira told the Times of Israel in a Thursday phone interview.

The federation leader said that when he confronted El Omari about the clause pertaining to Jerusalem, the PAM chairman said “he had no idea how the city was divided,” and therefore didn’t differentiate between east and west when crafting it. East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel shortly after the 1967 war while the latter half has been apart of the country since its founding.

Regarding Moroccan citizens living in the settlements, Skira said he told El Omari that many do so simply because it is cheaper and they cannot afford to live elsewhere. “The government sent them to live there. Bibi (Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) is offering them apartments for NIS 1,000!” he added.

Simon Skira (courtesy)

Skira said that El Omari’s response to his concerns was overwhelmingly positive, with the PAM leader agreeing to withdraw the legislation at the end of the meeting.

The federation leader added that El Omari called him a week later to explain that the whole idea had merely been an attempt to appease Mashaal. However, the Hamas leader disdained the plan anyway due to its inadvertent recognition of Israel proper, he said.

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