Defence Minister Benny Gantz, Foreign Affairs Minister Yair Lapid and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (Photo: Haaretz)

Defence Minister Benny Gantz, Foreign Affairs Minister Yair Lapid and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (Photo: Haaretz)

Last week I told you the story of two Israeli women heading to great heights in their professions. Last Monday Gali Baharav-Miara was appointed Attorney General by the Israeli Coalition Government. Kol Hakavod!

On a very different note, there is a political issue causing great tension between and within political parties in Israel. The issue has to do with the right of Palestinians who marry Israelis to gain Israeli citizenship.

In Israel, the law being debated is the Citizenship Law. Currently, according to the Times of Israel about 12,700 Palestinians married to Israelis live in Israel with temporary documentation and are required to renew this documentation at regular intervals. It is appreciated that such people lack security in their status and many complications arise if that relationship breaks down or their partner dies and there are children of the marriage who can be deported. This temporary status also denies such people rights, such as opening bank accounts, health benefits etc.

By way of background, in 2003, at the height of the Intifada, to prevent terror attacks the Citizenship and Entry Law was amended to ban Palestinians who married Israelis from obtaining permanent residency, hence citizenship. However, under certain circumstances such people could remain in Israel, but without other rights.

This amendment to the law had to be passed by the Knesset every year but was overturned last July with the abstention of two parliamentarians from the Islamist party. This has led to Palestinians married to Israelis being able to be treated the same as any other foreign spouse with a right to residency through family unification.

With the department responsible for the implementation of the law controlled by the right wing Yamina Party, the ban has continued, but has been wildly controversial.

Yair Lapid, the Deputy Prime Minister has cited the need to maintain Israel’s Jewish majority as a Jewish State as the reason for supporting this law. So, while the current Coalition has supported the retention of the Citizenship law, other measures have been taken to give Palestinian spouses rights previously not enjoyed, such as access to health care and a licence to drive a vehicle.

As of February 6, 2022, the Coalition Cabinet approved the controversial bill to renew the expired ban on permits for Palestinians who marry Israelis to live with their spouses in Israel. This was despite the opposition by coalition partners Meretz and Ra ‘am who claim, “it is a racist law which discriminates against Israel’s Arab citizens.” As of February 7, the bill has passed its first reading in the Knesset with the help of the Opposition parties and will now go to the committees.

ARZA President, Helen Shardey

Helen Shardey OAM
ARZA Australia President
UPJ Vice President