The Israel has blocks law that keeps out Palestinian spouses.
The law has been renewed annually and appeared to have the support of a large majority in parliament, which is dominated by hard-line nationalist parties. But former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party and his allies decided to oppose it to embarrass Bennett and harm his coalition, which includes a small Arab party.
With all due respect for this law, the importance of toppling the government is greater, Netanyahu said Monday. 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.
Bennett proposed a compromise with liberal members of the coalition that would have extended the law by six months while offering residency rights to some 1,600 Arab families, a fraction of those affected. But the measure was defeated, in part because two Arab members of the coalition abstained. The vote exposed the deep divisions and the fragility of the new government.
The law has been continually renewed even after the uprising wound down in 2005 and the number of attacks plummeted. Today, Israel allows more than 100,000 Palestinian workers from the West Bank to enter on a regular basis.
Male spouses over the age of 35 and female spouses over the age of 25, as well as some humanitarian cases, can apply for the equivalent of a tourist permit, which must be regularly renewed. The holders of such permits are ineligible for driver’s licenses, public health insurance and most forms of employment.
Palestinian spouses from Gaza have been completely banned since the militant Hamas group seized power there in 2007.
The law does not apply to the nearly 500,000 Jewish settlers who live in the West Bank, who have full Israeli citizenship. Under Israel’s Law of Return, Jews who come to Israel from anywhere in the world are eligible for citizenship.
Palestinians who are unable to get permits but try to live with their spouses inside Israel are at risk of deportation. Couples that move to the West Bank live under Israeli military occupation.
Israel’s Arab minority has close familial ties to Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and largely identifies with their cause. Arab citizens view the law as one of several forms of discrimination they face in a country that legally defines itself as a Jewish nation-state.
Israel’s parliament early on Tuesday failed to renew a law that bars Arab citizens from extending citizenship or residency rights to spouses from the occupied West Bank and Gaza, in a tight vote that raised doubts about the viability of the country’s new coalition government.
The 59-59 vote, which came after an all-night session of the Knesset, marked a major setback for Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
The new Israeli leader, who had hoped to find a compromise between his hard-line Yamina party and the dovish factions in his disparate coalition, instead suffered a stinging defeat in a vote he reportedly described as a referendum on the new government. The vote means the law is now set to expire at midnight Tuesday.
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