Important clarification of a situation unfolding in Israel: for you to read and then share as broadly as possible.
If you track the Israeli news, it is likely that you have been reading about the Family Reunification Law, which has to do with the issue of allowing Arabs from the Palestinian Authority or Gaza who have married Israeli Arabs to come into Israel.
It is an ad hoc law that has undergone changes and adjustments every year as it has been renewed. Essentially it says that there is no residency or citizenship granted to the PA partner in a marriage. Exceptions are frequently made, however, for humanitarian reasons, so that the couple will be granted permission by the Interior Ministry to live together in Israel. These exceptions are permitted, on appeal, if the husband wishing to come into Israel is at least 35, or the wife wishing to come in at least 25. The entering spouse is given a permit, akin to a tourist visa, which must be renewed – he or she is not given permanent residency. Children under 14 may be given residency. Some 54% of these humanitarian appeals are approved.
This is a law that must be passed every year, and expires on July 6.
It is an inefficient and problematic law that is full of holes. And the holes have been expanding over time. This is worrisome for a number of reasons. The exceptions can be utilized as a means of bringing additional Palestinian Arabs into Israel. It becomes a “right of return” through the back door. Once they are here, they stay. According to Professor Arnon Sofer, there are likely hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs living within the pre-1967 borders without any form of authorization for their presence.
This is particularly the case with the Bedouins in the Negev, who practice polygamy to this day, even though it is against the law. The Israeli Arab man brings in one wife – usually from Gaza, fathers children with her, divorces her (although she stays in the Negev), brings in another woman to marry, and so forth.
An additional problem of serious dimensions is the increased likelihood of involvement in terrorism of children of these marriages. The children of “mixed-marriages” are three times more likely to be involved in terrorist activities than children of couples where both spouses are Arab-Israeli. That figure is across the board in Israel.
With regard to Jerusalem (where one spouse is a non-citizen from eastern Jerusalem), the second generation of “mixed marriages” is twelve times more likely to be involved in terrorism. The same statistic is true in the Negev.
Involvement in terrorism includes the perpetration of attacks, intent to commit attacks, recruiting terrorists or those who assist them, channeling funds to terrorist organizations, and acquiring weapons or other related items to be used for terrorist activity.
These figures clearly suggest that those spouses who come in, in some cases, themselves have terrorist inclinations, which attitudes are transmitted to the next generation.
I have been aware of the problem in the Negev with the Bedouins for years. Wives who are routinely brought in from Gaza are notably hostile to Israel and raise their children with this attitude.
Once, a good percentage of the Bedouin served in the IDF; they had a superb reputation as trackers. Today, many fewer do.
This year has been particularly problematic with regard to the passing of the law, as there is now an Islamic party in the government. Ra’am, is anti-Zionist and Mansour Abbas refers to the law as “racist.” Sure, “racist” if there is no consideration of Israel as the Jewish state.
Efforts were made by Bennett and Lapid to convince Abbas to support the law. He demanded, among other things, that the Palestinian spouses allowed into Israel via a permit be given health care and be allowed to secure Israeli drivers’ licenses. This is nonsense, as this would have been a path to normalizing the permanent residence of these people.
Abbas milked the situation for all he could: “There should be a compromise. Obviously, we are not in support of this law, and the coalition and opposition don’t expect Ra’am to support it. But there is a difference between handling this issue in partnership, or from an oppositional stance.”
What Abbas was referring to was a situation in which additional concessions would be made in return for Ra’am abstaining instead of voting against. It was reported that he was seeking permanent residency for spouses who came in before 2003, when the law was passed.
In the end, even having Ra’am simply abstain turned out to not be sufficient. Two members of Ra’am, MK Mazen Ghanaim, MK, Walid Taha, decided to vote against the law no matter what adjustments were made (because it is “racist”) and some other members on the left of the coalition (from Meretz and Labor) decided similarly.
This created a crisis, as the government consists of only 61 mandates.
Prime Minister Bennett called upon Likud, in the opposition, to support the legislation, as it always had before. Netanyahu refused.
Bennett then charged that Netanyahu was refusing to support the legislation for purely political reasons – to embarrass the new government, which could not garner the needed votes to proceed – even if this position hurt the country.
This is not exactly the full story however:
It was not a case of this Reunification bill or nothing!! The Religious Zionist Party had advanced a different kind of bill – a Basic Law on Immigration.
This law was drafted by Religious Zionist MK Simcha Rothman, an attorney and a very sharp guy.
Rothman explains that Israel has never had an immigration law, and that it is past due. It is, in fact, a matter of great urgency if we are to sustain Israel as a Jewish state. The presence of an anti-Zionist Islamist party inside the government, to which concessions are being made, makes the situation all the more critical.
The law that has been drafted covers all immigration issues, not just the matter of family reunification, which would be subsumed within this legislation. No longer would decisions be made ad hoc, now there would be a reasoned policy.
What the government is seeking to enact is a bad law, says Rothman. Last year there was criticism of it from the legal establishment. It has been challenged in court three times, and each time there was a split decision; it is on the edge of being over-turned. The current chief justice is opposed to it.
It is simply not an acceptable situation for the exceptions to be consistently extended, so that the restrictions on entry into the country are narrowed time and again.
The Immigration Law was submitted to the government more than a week ago.
Yesterday, a meeting of the Knesset Arrangements Committee was held. There was a furor about this because, in the face of traditional practice, it was called on a fast day: The 17th of Tammuz.
The opposition had thought they would not attend in protest, but because the Reunification law was on the agenda, it was decided that attendance would be wise.
In the end, because Yamina saw that there would not be sufficient support for the Reunification law, it was not brought forward at all. This angered the opposition (which consists of many religious MKs) because they would not have attended had they known this in advance.
Ayelet Shaked (Yamina), Minister of the Interior, made an impassioned statement about how she would not permit entry of Palestinian spouses even in the absence of the Reunification law, and how they would continue to advance it until it did secure sufficient votes for passage.
The Arrangements Committee makes decisions as to which committee submitted legislation is to be sent for consideration and advancement. (The Reunification Law would have gone to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.). At this point no private legislation is being considered and proceedings are in the hands of Yamina.
At the meeting, 12 laws that had been submitted were fast-tracked for processing.
The Immigration Law was not even mentioned!! Rothman says one-third of the committee members present wanted to see the law forwarded on.
Clearly, the government is not ready to deal with immigration legislation because it would not sit well with Ra’am nor, very likely, with Meretz.
So you tell me, my friends, precisely who is acting out of political interests and not for the good of the country.
Bennett should hang his head in shame. No way does he have the right to call himself right-wing.
Latest update as I write: Netanyahu has apparently now told Bennett that Likud will support the Reunification Law if the government will support the Immigration Law.
Do not hold your breath. A bit of one-upmanship, I would say. But clearly this story is not over.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.