The Knesset voted Wednesday in favor of a controversial law against illegal constructions that detractors say will mostly target Arab homes built without required, but hard-to-get, permits.
The law, which has the backing of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government, was passed with 43 votes for and 33 against.
Arab Israelis were quick to denounce the law.
The law provides punishment of up to three years in jail, increases fines and reduces the powers of courts to postpone the date of demolition orders.
Arab Israelis, who make up some 23 percent of the population, say discrimination by the Jewish state often makes it impossible for them to obtain planning permission to expand their communities.
The result is that many families resort to building homes without permission, leaving them liable to demolition.
The new law will also apply to around 300,000 Palestinians living in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem.
Druze lawmaker Abdullah Abu Maaruf (Joint List) accused the Israeli premier of wanting to “please the right at whatever cost and at the expense of the Arabs.”
The law threatens “50,000 Arab homes in which hundreds of thousands of people live,” he told AFP.
Leaders of the Druze community, a minority among the Arab Israelis, called on their members of Knesset to vote against the bill.
The daily Haaretz reported that 97% of demolition orders between 2012 and 2014 targeted Arab families.
Ir Amim, an Israeli anti-settlement non-governmental organization, reported a record 203 demolitions in East Jerusalem last year.
Palestinians make up 37% of the city’s population, but only 15% of the area of East Jerusalem is zoned for Palestinian construction, it said.
In January, demolitions in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran sparked violence in which a policeman and his alleged attacker were killed.
In February, thousands of Arabs and Jews demonstrated in Tel Aviv over government policy toward the Arab community, accusing the government of racism and incitement against minorities and expressing anger over home demolitions in Umm al-Hiran and in the northern Arab village of Qalansawe.