“Anyone who has not seen the celebrations of Likud and Religious Zionist members alongside [Arab Joint List] MKs has never seen insanity in their life,” Ayelet Shaked tweeted after the law failed to pass.
By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News
In an embarrassing blow to the new government, the Knesset failed to extend the so-called family reunification law, or Citizenship Law, after a vote on Tuesday at dawn.
The vote ended 59-59, with rebel Yamina MK Amichai Chikli, who voted against the formation of the new government, voting alongside the opposition.
Two Ra’am MKs voted in favor of the law and two abstained.
Originally passed as an emergency measure at the height of the second intifada in 2003, the law prevents Palestinians married to Israeli citizens from automatically gaining residency and citizenship in Israel.
Each year, law comes up for a vote that extends its powers for an additional 12 months. For the last 18 years, the law has easily sailed through the Knesset, strongly backed by right-wing parties.
But this year, the opposition, led by former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the Likud party, seized upon the opportunity to highlight the lack of cohesion within the new government.
Made up of diverse parties with wildly different ideological outlooks, the governing coalition has a razor-thin, 61-seat majority, which could be defeated by just a single MK.
In recent days, the Islamist Ra’am and left-wing Meretz parties publicly decried the law as “racist,” forcing Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked to negotiate with party heads to reach a compromise.
Hebrew-language media reported that Shaked agreed to immediately grant residency rights to some 1,600 Palestinians married to Israelis and that the law would only be extended by six months. Other sources put the number at over 3,000.
In the meantime, humanitarian solutions, such as the investigation of the family reunification requests on a case-by-case basis, would be set up.
The compromise was good enough to convince the Meretz party to vote in favor, but two Ra’am MKs vowed to vote against the law no matter what.
In an interview with Nazareth-based Arabic-language Nas Radio on Tuesday morning, Minister of Regional Cooperation Issawi Frej (Meretz) said that Bennett and Shaked’s deal to woo resistant parties had been sweeter than initial reports had indicated.
He appeared to criticize the Ra’am party for failing to ensure that the law passed.
“The agreement that was put forth by Bennett and Shaked gave more than 3,000 Palestinian families legal status in Israel, and I didn’t want that to go public because of [potential pushback from] the right
“We lost a meaningful opportunity for justice for thousands of families of our people,” he said.
Likud: ‘A corrupt deal’
“Anyone who has not seen the celebrations of Likud and Religious Zionist members alongside [MKs] Ofer Kasif and Sami Abu Shehadeh has never seen insanity in their life,” Shaked tweeted after the law failed to pass.
“Together they defeated the Citizenship Law, an important law for the security and character of the country.”
Referencing the Likud and Religious Zionism parties’ statements that the Yamina-led government is not Zionism, Shaked tweeted sarcastically that the defeat of the law was a “a great victory for post-Zionism.”
The Likud party celebrated its victory via social media, writing on Twitter that the compromise was a “a corrupt deal stitched together in the dark of night between Bennett, Lapid, Ra’am and Meretz by the first Israeli-Palestinian government, and destroyed thanks to the determined struggle that the opposition conducted, led by Netanyahu.”
Because the compromise would have allowed “thousands of people” to enter Israel, “endangering the Zionist identity and security of the State of Israel,” Likud’s efforts to defeat the law actually protected Israeli citizens, the party said.