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Israel parliament votes to extend citizenship law

The Israeli Knesset [official website] on Wednesday voted 53-13 to extend a law [TO 5763 text] limiting the ability of Arab-Israelis [JVL backgrounder] to bring Palestinian family members into Israel. The Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law, first passed by the Knesset in 2002, allows only Palestinian women 25 years or older and men 35 years or older to join their families in Israel and eventually be eligible for full citizenship. The law, now extended for six months [Ynet report], has been extended every year since it was first passed. In explaining the need for the law, Minister of Religious Services Yakov Margi [official profile] stated that the policy was necessary to increase security because some Palestinian residents have exploited their legal status following reunification proceedings to carry out suicide bombings. Arab-Israeli members of the Knesset described the law as racist and discriminatory [UPI report] and said that it failed to address security concerns.

In May 2006, the Supreme Court of Israel [official website, in Hebrew] ruled 6-5 to uphold the law [JURIST report], holding that it does not infringe upon the constitutional rights of Israelis, and, if it does, that harm is "measured." The dissent wrote that the law violates the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty [text] by infringing on the right to family life. The petitioners challenging the law said it impermissibly interferes with their right to have a Palestinian family in Israel. Critics say the law is motivated by a desire to maintain Israel's Jewish majority. Israel's State Prosecutor said that the state has granted 6,000 of the 22,000 family reunification applications received since a 1993 Oslo Accords [CFR backgrounder] between Israel and the Palestinians. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] called on Israel to repeal the law [JURIST report] in 2004, calling it "explicitly discriminatory," in violation of international humanitarian law.

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