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Knesset vote on extending Palestinian family reunification law pushed off again

Move comes as coalition fails to muster majority; Likud slams ‘dangerous left-wing government which is reliant on anti-Zionist forces’

Protestors, including Joint List MK Ayman Odeh (center), hold a demonstration against the "family reunification law" outside the Knesset in Jerusalem, on June 29, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Protestors, including Joint List MK Ayman Odeh (center), hold a demonstration against the "family reunification law" outside the Knesset in Jerusalem, on June 29, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A vote on extending the Palestinian family reunification law was delayed yet again on Tuesday when the coalition realized it has yet to secure a majority.

Instead of being brought to the Knesset on Wednesday as intended, the vote is now scheduled for Monday, July 5. The law, which blocks the automatic granting of citizenship to Palestinians who marry Israeli citizens, expires on July 6.

Following the news, Likud slammed the coalition for being unable to muster enough votes.

“There has never been such a failing and faltering coalition,” Likud tweeted. “The fact that Bennett’s fraudulent government has once again pushed off the vote on extending the temporary order proves again that it is a dangerous left-wing government which is reliant on anti-Zionist forces.”

According to Ynet, members of the coalition are hoping to convince the four MKs in the Ra’am Party to abstain from voting, rather than voting against renewing the law. But last week, Ra’am MK Walid Taha vowed that he would never vote in favor or abstain from voting on the legislation, which he called “racist and anti-democratic.”

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

Interior Minister, Ayelet Shaked at a ceremony at the Interior Ministry in Jerusalem, on June 14, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked reportedly threatened MKs in Ra’am and Meretz that if they don’t support the legislation, then the coalition will work to advance a quasi-constitutional bill that would overhaul the immigration system in Israel, and ease the way for a greater number of deportations.

Members of Likud and other opposition parties — who support the reunification bill in principle, but have vowed to oppose it simply to embarrass the government — have indicated that they may vote in favor of the bill if the immigration legislation is introduced.

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” in its opposition to renewing the reunification law.

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.

With the coalition holding the narrowest possible one-seat majority in the Knesset, every vote can theoretically be torpedoed by just one lawmaker.

On Tuesday, Likud slammed a series of its own lawmakers for not showing up to the Knesset for votes.

“Today some members of Knesset took the law into their own hands against the clear directive to not offset” the absence of opposition lawmakers, the party tweeted, calling out Likud MKs Yuli Edelstein, Avi Dichter, Keren Barak and Fateen Mulla for either not showing up or agreeing to abstain from a vote in the absence of opposition MKs.

“Thank you to the vast majority of MKs who are in the Knesset around the clock and are battling against this dangerous left-wing government,” Netanyahu’s party added. “We cannot accept the behavior of those who make their own decisions and cause major damage to the efforts of the right-wing camp.”

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