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Israel passes law to strip the citizenship of terror convicts who receive money from the Palestinian Authority

According to the sponsors of the bill, the Palestinian Authority pays a monthly salary to many people with Israeli citizenship or residency as payment for committing terrorist activities.

On Wednesday, February 15, the Knesset or the unicameral parliament of Israel passed a law to deport and strip convicted terrorists of Israeli citizenship in case they receive funding or stipends from the Palestinian Authority or related organisations. 

The new law received 94 votes in favour and 10 votes against it to pass, garnering support from certain right-wing opposition Knesset members (MKs).

Despite sharp political and ideological and political differences, the law received cross-Knesset votes. The bill, titled “Revoking the Citizenship or Residency Status of a Terrorist Operative Receiving Compensation for Committing an Act of Terrorism, 2023,” was presented by Likud MK Ofir Katz and backed by MKs Sharren Haskel and Zeev Elkin of Nationalist Unity Party, Simcha Rothman of Religious Zionist Party, Yisrael Beitenu’s Oded Forer, Yinon Azoulay of Shas, Meir Cohen of Yesh Atid and many other MKs.

Ofir Katz, a Likud MK, declared on the Knesset floor that the law marks “the dawn of a new era” and added, “I know and feel from the bottom of my heart that such laws are our true mission as elected officials. I categorically state that a terrorist who is paid by the Palestinian Authority should fly from Israel to Gaza or from anywhere else. Don’t stay here.” Katz remarked.

Arab lawmakers in the house opposed the bill calling it racist, but they were outnumbered. As the law will be applicable to only those citizens who receive salaries or stipends from  Palestinian Authority or related organisations, it will not be applicable to Jewish terrorists.

In a note attached to the bill presented at the Knesset, the sponsors said, “It is inconceivable that citizens and residents of Israel who not only betrayed the state and Israeli society, but who have also agreed to receive payment from the PA as a reward for committing the act of terrorism and continue to benefit from it — will continue to hold Israeli citizenship or residency.”

They further added, “Many people who hold Israeli citizenship or residency are currently receiving monthly salaries from the Palestinian Authority as wages and remuneration for committing acts of terrorism. These salaries gradually increase with the seniority of the people in prison.”

About the law

In accordance with the law, which is an amendment to Israel’s 1952 Citizenship Law, both Israeli citizens and permanent residents who are imprisoned after being found guilty of terrorism, backing terrorism, undermining Israel’s sovereignty, inciting war, or assisting an enemy during wartime are subject to having their citizenship status revoked by the interior minister following a hearing. The court will revoke citizenship upon the Interior Minister’s request, with the approval of the Minister of Justice and following consultation with an advisory committee.

The citizenship will be revoked even if the person does not have another citizenship of another country, provided they have permanent residence status outside Israel. Once citizenship is revoked, such a person will not be allowed to enter Israel again.

“The measure specifies a timetable for the revocation of citizenship or residency, as well as the premise that if a person receives such payments, he is presumed to be entitled to the status from the Palestinian Authority,” an official press release read.

The law’s proponents write in an explanatory note that it is “inconceivable that citizens and residents of Israel who not only betrayed the state and Israeli society but who have also consented to receive payment from the PA as a reward for committing the act of terrorism and continue to benefit from it — will continue to have Israeli citizenship or residency.”

The note also states that the Palestinian Authority pays a monthly salary to many people with Israeli citizenship or residency as payment for committing terrorist activities. Depending on the seniority of the convicts, these payments soar gradually.

The Israeli Citizenship Law of 1952, also known as the “Israel: Nationality Law, 5712-1952,” granted Palestinians Israeli nationality under specified conditions, including if “he was a Palestinian citizen immediately before the formation of the State (of Israel)”.

Section 3(a) of the law states “A person born before the establishment of the State shall be an Israel national by residence in Israel from the date of the coming into force of the Nationality (Amendment No. 4) Law, 5740-198) if he meets the following requirements: (1) He is not a resident of Israel by virtue of any other provision of this Law; (2) he was a Palestinian citizen immediately before the establishment of the State. Besides, if a person was registered as a citizen on the Population Register as a resident of Israel.

The new law targets Israeli citizens who are paid by the Palestinian Authority to conduct terror activities in Israel. Referred to as “pay for slay,” the Palestinian Authority regularly pays stipends to convicted terrorists in Israel. The law will also apply if the funding is received from other organisations related to the Palestinian Authority.

Israel’s Supreme Court on revoking the citizenship of ‘disloyal citizens’

In July last year, the Supreme Court of Israel heard a plea filed by The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) against a 2017 ruling of Haifa District Court which affirmed the Interior Minister’s request to revoke the citizenship of Alaa Zayoud, a Palestinian citizen of Israel from Umm el-Fahem. Upholding Haifa District Court’s ruling stated that ‘disloyal citizens’ can be stripped of their Israeli citizenship and residency for “breach of loyalty” including acts like espionage, terrorism, and treason.

Palestinian Authority and the ‘pay for slay’ policy

The Palestinian Authority, or “PA,” was established on the basis of the Oslo Accords, a series of accords reached between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel in 1993-95.

The Palestinian Authority runs a Martyrs Fund that provides monthly monetary stipends to the families of Palestinians who have died, been hurt, or been imprisoned as a result of engaging in violence against Israel. This is often termed by Israel as a ‘pay for slay’ policy adopted by the Palestinian Authority. 

Opposition to the citizenship bill 

Opposing the recently passed bill, Ahmad Tabibi, a member of Knesset called it a populist and draconian law.  He claimed that if an Arab commits a crime he will be subjected to revocation of citizenship, however, for committing the same crime an Israeli citizen will not be stripped of his citizenship.

The need for the citizenship bill

On January 27, a 21-year-old Palestinian terrorist went on a killing spree and gunned down 7 Jews outside a synagogue in Neve Yaakov in East Jerusalem. In the deadliest attack on Jerusalem since the one in 2008, 7 Jews were killed and at least 10 were injured. Following this, the PM Benjamin Netanyahu-led government authorized. nine Jewish settler outposts in the occupied West Bank and announced the construction of new homes within established settlements. In a statement, PM Netanyahu authorized the nine communities of Avigayil, Beit Hogla, Givat Harel, Givat Arnon, Mitzpe Yehuda, Malachei Hashalom, Asahel, Sde Boaz and Shaharit.

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