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Israel approves law to deport Palestinians convicted of terrorism

A diverse Knesset majority passed a bill to strip the Israeli citizenship or residency of prisoners convicted of terrorism who receive stipends from the Palestinian Authority.
SAID KHATIB/AFP via Getty Images

The Israeli parliament adopted a new law on Wednesday revoking the citizenship or residency of  Palestinian assailants convicted of terrorism by Israeli courts, and who receive stipends from the Palestinian Authority while serving in prison.

Ninety-four Knesset members voted in favor of the law while 10 objected. The main sponsor of the bill was Knesset member Ofir Katz of the ruling Likud party, but several opposition members signed the text as co-sponsors and many opposition members voted in favor of it.

The newly adopted legislation amends Israel’s 1952 Citizenship Law and affects both Israeli nationals and permanent residents who meet three conditions:

  1. The person must have been convicted of terror, aiding terror, harming Israeli sovereignty, inciting war or aiding an enemy during wartime.
  2. He or she must have been sentenced to jail time.
  3. The person or someone on their behalf receives stipends from the Palestinian Authority while in prison.

The new legislation empowers the Israeli interior minister, with the support of the justice minister, to request that a prisoner's status be revoked. The will also need to support the request before it’s submitted to court. The prisoner will then get the chance to deny receiving stipends from the Palestinian Authority. If no evidence is presented, the court will order for the individual's legal status to be revoked and once the prisoner is released from jail, he or she will no longer be able to live in Israel.

Last December, Israel revoked the Jerusalem residency of detainee Salah Hamouri, deporting him to Paris. The move was legal because Hamouri held French citizenship and stripping him of his residency did not leave him status-less, which is forbidden by international law. The new legislation will apparently see Israeli citizens reduced to resident status, as not to leave them stateless or status-less. It is unclear yet whether the new legislation will allow the Interior Ministry to revoke the residency of a person who has no other legal status, though the authors of the bill have stated that they are not concerned with this risk.

The Arab Hadash-Ta’al party slammed the bill as undemocratic, claiming it led to a “deepening of the occupation" with "one law for the Jews and another law for the Palestinians.” Members of the party argued that the stipend condition was added to make sure the legislation applies only to Palestinian prisoners, not to Jewish ones.

In a preliminary reading, the Knesset also approved a bill introduced by Likud’s Hanoch Dov Milwidsky on deporting family members of convicted terrorists to the Palestinian territories. The bill needs to pass two more Knesset readings before it is adopted.

For the past few years, the Israeli government has deducted the stipends paid to families of imprisoned Palestinian assailants from the tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.

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