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Coalition fails to pass ordinance in Knesset vote

What happened: The new Israeli government failed to win a vote to extend the duration of an ordinance that denies citizenship to Palestinians who marry Israelis.

  • After an all-night debate, the vote early this morning was a tie, 59 MKs voting in favour and 59 against, and as a result, the motion did not pass.
  • Leader of the United Arab List (UAL) MK Mansour Abbas and his colleague Walid Taha both voted in favour, as did Israeli-Arab MKs in the Labour and Meretz Party. The other two MKs from UAL, Said al-Harumi and Mazen Ghanaim, abstained.
  • During the night a compromise was reached among the coalition partners that the ordinance would only be extended by six months (instead of a year) and that 1,600 Palestinians would be given Israeli residency status, which allowed Israeli-Arab MKs within the coalition to support the vote.
  • Rebel Yamina MK Amichai Chikli joined the opposition and voted against.
  • Prior to the vote, Leader of the Opposition Benjamin Netanyahu told his Likud faction, “With all due respect for this law, the importance of toppling the government is greater … this isn’t just a law. It’s a law that exposes the fault line in this government, whose purpose is to advance an anti-Zionist agenda.”
  • Following the vote, Interior Minister Shaked said: “Anyone who did not seen the jubilation of Likud and Religious Zionist members with Ofer Kasif and Sami Abu Shehadeh (MKs from the Joint List), Shas never seen real madness in their life … together they defeated the Citizenship Law, an important law for the security and character of the country.” She added, sarcastically, that it was “a great victory for post-Zionism,” in reference to the characterisation the Likud and Religious Zionist Party have given the new government.

Context: The ordinance, dubbed the “citizenship law,” was passed in 2003 during the height of the Second Intifada on the recommendations of the security establishment, which was concerned potential Palestinian terrorists could abuse the system to gain full access inside Israel.

  • Since then, the ordinance has been renewed every year, for the last decade, under the leadership of the Likud.
  • Last month the Shin Bet Security Service continued to recommend maintaining the law to protect Israeli security interests.
  • However, the controversial nature of the law cut at the intersection between Israeli Arabs and Palestinians in the West Bank.
  • The deadline to the renewal of this law posed difficulties for the new government due to its ideological diversity.
  • Although this is a defeat for the coalition, it does not affect the government’s stability. The coalition took a more positive spin from the vote and said they were pleased to have been able reach understandings over such a controversial issue.
  • On the downside from the coalition’s perspective, Yamina MK Chikli appears to be working with the opposition to the extent that he voted against his own ideological beliefs.
  • Significant pressure was placed on Chikli from his Yamina colleagues to support the compromise proposal but he ultimately voted with the opposition. Channel 12 News reported Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked telling MK Zvi Hauser, “Chikli has gone mad,” and she urged Bennett to declare him a renegade MK who is no longer part of the Yamina faction.
  • In a bizarre point of collaboration, MKs from the Joint List were seen celebrating, as were members of the right-wing opposition. The Yamina party issued a statement saying: “Led by Bibi and Tibi, the opposition did not succeed in toppling the government but together caused direct harm to the security of Israel and abandoned its borders. This is how petty politics at the expense of Israeli citizens looks.”
  • Likud MK May Golan wrote on Twitter: “More Palestinians received Israeli citizenship tonight from Ayelet Shaked than Israelis who voted for Bennett.”

Looking forward: The ordinance will formally end at midnight tonight. Starting tomorrow, Interior Minister Shaked will have to review requests by Palestinians for family unification on an individual basis.


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