With help from opposition, Citizenship Law passes first reading in Knesset

Controversial bill advances 44-5, after MKs from both sides of the aisle leave the plenum rather than vote; stricter version also approved


People hold a protest against the ‘Citizenship Law’ outside the Knesset on June 29, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

With help from the opposition, the controversial so-called Citizenship Law passed its first reading in the Knesset plenum on Monday, despite objections from the coalition’s Meretz and Ra’am parties.

Along with the bill sponsored by Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, which passed 44-5, MKs also approved a more strict version of the bill sponsored by MK Simcha Rothman of the opposition Religious Zionism party. The two versions will now move on to further debates in the Knesset’s committees where they will likely be merged before coming up for their final two readings.

In a rare showing of cooperation and due to the coalition’s razor-thin majority in the Knesset, right-wing parties in the government enlisted right-wing parties in the opposition to support Shaked’s bill. In return, the conservative MKs in the coalition backed Rothman’s versions of the bill as well.State of Jerusalem: The MaqdasyinKeep Watching

However, Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi turned the vote on Shaked’s version of the bill into a no-confidence vote, prompting right-wing parties in the opposition to not participate in the vote so as not to appear to support the government’s continued existence.

MKs from the coalition’s left-wing Meretz and Arab Islamist Ra’am parties, along with some from the center-left Labor party, also left the plenum during the vote in order to express confidence in the government while still maintaining their objection to the bill.Get The Times of Israel’s Daily Editionby email and never miss our top storiesNewsletter email addressGET ITBy signing up, you agree to the terms

Moments after the vote, Shaked wrote on Twitter that “Zionism and common sense prevailed.” She also thanked both coalition and opposition members who voted for the bill.

Minister of Health and head of the left wing Meretz party Nitzan Horowitz leads a faction meeting at the Knesset on January 3, 2021. (Yonatan SindelFlash90)

The bill would renew a ban on permits for Palestinians who marry Israelis to live with their spouses in Israel. The ban was first passed in 2003 and then renewed every year since, until last July when the law expired after the coalition failed to win a vote on extending it.

Meretz and Ra’am say they oppose the legislation because it discriminates against the Israel Arab population, and both parties have warned of consequences for the coalition if the government moves forward on such a contentious issue while ignoring their position.ADVERTISEMENThttps://49e02a4e4c5c08a90d213fa082259362.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

Following the cabinet’s vote on Sunday to advance Shaked’s bill, Meretz party chief Nitzan Horowitz said the decision “broke the rules” of consensus that underpin the coalition and warned it would have “future repercussions.”

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