Ra’am MK says party will vote against the Palestinian family reunification law

Walid Taha calls the legislation, which is testing the nascent government, ‘racist and anti-democratic’; new coalition lacks majority to extend 2003 law

Ra'am MK Walid Taha attends a Knesset Arrangements Committee meeting, on June 21, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Ra'am MK Walid Taha attends a Knesset Arrangements Committee meeting, on June 21, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A lawmaker from the Ra’am party on Tuesday said the Islamist party would vote against extending the so-called “family reunification law” if it comes up for a Knesset vote, denouncing the legislation as “racist and anti-democratic.”

“It cannot in any way or form pass with the votes of Ra’am’s Knesset members,” MK Walid Taha wrote on Twitter regarding the law, which prevents Palestinians who marry Israeli citizens from automatically getting citizenship. “I will continue to oppose this law… and Ra’am will vote against the law in the plenum.”

Without the backing of Ra’am and several MKs from the left-wing Meretz and Labor parties, the coalition currently lacks a majority to extend the law. Most lawmakers in the opposition also back the legislation in principle, but many have indicated that they will nevertheless vote against it to undermine and embarrass the new coalition.

According to a report in Channel 12 News, Ra’am’s three other MKs have indicated they are open to a compromise on the legislation, but Taha vehemently opposes any such measure. The Arab party is therefore expected to vote against the legislation to avoid internal division.

A source within the coalition told Channel 12 that the only potential solution to the impasse would be to offer Ra’am something significant, such as a freeze of demolition orders in Arab communities, in exchange for their votes.

The battle over extending the Palestinian family reunification law is testing the new coalition composed of right-wing, centrist and left-wing parties and the Islamist Ra’am.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (L) talks with Mansour Abbas, head of the Islamic Ra’am Party, during a special session to vote on the new government at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on June 13, 2021. (EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett held consultations on Monday with senior ministers and Mansour Abbas, the head of Ra’am, but the meeting ended without agreement, Channel 12 News reported. The parties agreed on the importance of coalition unity, but failed to resolve the deadlock on this specific issue, the network said.

The vote on extending the 2003 law was pulled Sunday from the agenda for the next day, with the government apparently unable to muster a majority to pass the measure.

Within the new government, Regional Cooperation Minister Issawi Frej of Meretz, fellow party member Mossi Raz and Labor’s Ibtisam Mara’ana are also opposed to the measure in its current form.

The coalition has accused opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies of “playing with the country’s security” by “putting political considerations before the security interest of the citizens of the State of Israel.”

Family reunification in Israel typically involves an Israeli citizen requesting citizenship for his or her non-Israeli spouse. Most unification applications are submitted by Arab Israelis on behalf of a Palestinian spouse living in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip.

But the 2003 measure, passed due to concerns that it was being abused by members of terror groups to gain access to Israel, put limits on the process, making it harder for Palestinians to gain Israeli citizenship or residency through marriage. The controversial law has been extended every year since, usually with strong backing from Likud and other right-wing parties.

The current legislation expires July 6.

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