MKs reveal the true purpose of Israel’s Citizenship Law
Israel’s High Court on Thursday upheld a law that specifically excludes Palestinians from applying for permanent residency or Israeli citizenship by virtue of marriage to an Israeli. The Citizenship and Entry Law, originally passed nine years ago as a temporary order to prevent what is commonly referred to as “family reunification,” has been renewed and expanded ever since and regularly challenged on the grounds that it is discriminatory.
The most recent petition that the court rejected this week, argued the law should be struck down because it almost exclusively harms Palestinian citizens of Israel. Israeli-Arabs are inherently targeted by the law, the petition argued, because they are the group most likely to marry Palestinians on the other side of the Green Line due to their historic and continuous ethnic, religious, familial, social and provincial ties to one another.
In its defense of and justification for the law, the state cited its fear that Palestinian terrorists will exploit the possibility of marrying Israeli citizens in order to more easily carry out attacks against it. But the praise politicians showered on the court Thursday for upholding the law reveals its true purpose: to safeguard Israel’s delicate demographic balance by preventing any increase in the number of Palestinians living within its borders.
The High Court ruling, MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima) said, “articulates the rationale of separation between the [two] peoples and the need to maintain a Jewish majority and the [Jewish] character of the state.”
MK Ya’akov Katz (National Union) said the law mitigates the threat of Israel “being flooded with two to three million Arabs from outside its borders.”
MK Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) described how if the court had struck down the law, it would have allowed Palestinians to actualize their right of return through “fictitious marriages.”
But a comment by Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) revealed another problematic and morally questionable aspect of the law. He argued that Palestinian citizens of Israel do in fact have the right to start a family, but they must do so “on the other side [of the Green Line].”
Rivlin not only asserted that the state may deny its citizens their basic rights within its borders as long as they can be enjoyed elsewhere, he also explicitly said that if Israeli-Arabs want to start a family, they must first leave Israel.
But beyond the racial aspects of the Citizenship Law, MK Schneller introduced another equally problematic notion that is usually raised only by Israel’s harshest critics. If the High Court had ruled to strike down the law, Schneller said, “it would have turned Israel into a state of all its citizens.”