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Knesset Passes New Bill to Deport Arab Citizens of Israel

Knesset Passes New Bill to Deport Arab Citizens of Israel Charged With Terrorism

Arab lawmakers in the Knesset argue the legislation violates international law. Netanyahu says 'This is a powerful response to terrorism'.

The Knesset vote on Wednesday. Credit: Emil Salman

A majority of Knesset members voted on Wednesday to revoke both the citizenship and residency status of Arab citizens of Israel who were convicted of a terrorism and received funding from the Palestinian Authority, going as far as handing the government the power to deport them to the West Bank.

The law gives Israel's interior minister the power to revoke the residency status of an Israeli citizen if they were convicted of terrorism, served a prison sentence for their act, and received a direct financial reward for the act.

Any citizen must be given seven days to respond to the minister's decision and has the power of appeal. If the court approves the request, then they will be deported to the Palestinian Authority once they complete their prison sentence. The law also states that the deportation will take place even if the Palestinian Authority refuses to grant status to the deportee.

Israel's Deputy Attorney General, Avital Sternberg, said that this part of the law may result in its disqualification.

Following the vote, the chairman of Israel's coalition, Likud MK Ophir Katz said that "the government's legal advisers tried to block us at every turn. It is absurd." Israels Labor Party representative did not attend the vote in the Knesset but party members told Haaretz that "The Labor party supports fighting terrorism and we supported the bill when it was first proposed. But it is inconceivable that we will vote to support the agenda of this extremist government who is trying to undermine the democratic foundations of the country which protect the human rights of Israelis."

Israel's Interior Ministry already has the power to revoke the citizenship of anyone charged with terrorism, which it has done in the past, but the High Court has ruled that anyone whose citizenship is revoked must still retain residency status if they do not hold another passport.

Prior to 2008, the interior minister had complete authority to revoke citizenship, but it was used in very rare cases. In 2008, the Citizenship Law was amended to ensure that any request by the interior ministry to strip the citizenship of an Israeli involved in terrorist activities was first approved by the court system and attorney general. The new law now grants the Interior Ministry the unprecedented ability to revoke the residency status and deport citizens of Israeli.

The Knesset is also set to vote on a bill to expand the legislation to include family members of convicted terrorists. The bill proposes that if the interior minister can deport a family member of a convicted terrorist if they have sufficient evidence that they "knew in advance about plans to commit an act of terror" or showed any public support for such an act, . The bill we be finalized after internal discussions regarding the Shin Bet's opinion on the matter.

Last year, then-Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked ordered the deportation of Salah Hammouri, a Palestinian lawyer from Kafr Aqab in East Jerusalem, arguing that he worked “tirelessly to promote terror against Israel.” Palestinians in East Jerusalem hold official residency status in Israel but are the overwhelming majority of them are not citizens. The new law passed on Monday permits to deport convicted terrorists who also hold citizenship no matter where they live in Israel.

© Haaretz Daily Newspaper Ltd. All Rights Reserved

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