JERUSALEM: Israel’s parliament has renewed a temporary law dating back to 2003 that bars Israeli citizens from extending citizenship or even residency to Palestinian spouses from the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

Israel says the law, which was first enacted during a Palestinian uprising, is needed for security. Critics view it as a racist measure aimed at maintaining the country’s Jewish majority. The law is aimed at Palestinians and does not apply to Jewish settlers in the West Bank as they already have Israeli citizenship.

The Knesset failed to pass the law last summer because it did not have the support of left-wing and Arab members of the governing coalition. The opposition, led by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, supports the law but declined to vote for it to embarrass the government.

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, a staunch nationalist, took measures to prevent family unification during the several months when the law languished while campaigning for its renewal. She and other officials have acknowledged it is in part aimed at preserving Israel’s Jewish majority.

The law passed late Thursday with help from the opposition but without the left-wing Meretz and the United Arab List, an Arab party that made history by joining the governing coalition last year.

Shaked tweeted that the bill’s passage was a victory for a Jewish and democratic state and a defeat for a state for all its citizens. “The latter phrase is often used by Israel’s Arab minority to refer to their aspirations for equality,” Ayman Odeh, an Arab lawmaker, retweeted Shaked, calling it a victory for an apartheid state.

Published in Dawn, March 12th, 2022

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