JERUSALEM: Israel has passed a law to revoke the citizenship of Israeli Arabs convicted of terrorism and who get financial aid from the Palestinian Authority (PA).
It could also see Palestinian residents of occupied East Jerusalem stripped of their residency rights.
A large majority of MPs voted for the legislation, saying those affected had betrayed the Israeli state.
Critics say it is racist and violates international law by rendering people stateless.
The monthly stipends offered by the PA to Palestinian prisoners who have carried out attacks on Israelis, or their families, have long been highly contentious.
Israel describes them as a “pay for slay” policy which encourages violence.
It already acts to freeze the bank accounts or seize assets of those who hold Israeli citizenship or Jerusalem residency rights whom it suspects of taking the financial support.
Many Palestinians see the prisoners in Israeli jails as heroes of their nationalist struggle and the PA considers the payments made to them as social welfare.
In parliament, it was suggested the new legislation would affect hundreds of prisoners.
They could ultimately be deported to PA-controlled parts of the occupied West Bank or the Gaza Strip.
After months of rising deadly violence – with Israeli raids against militants in the West Bank and Palestinian street attacks on Israelis – there was wide backing for the law in the Israeli parliament.
At a time of deep political division, it was passed by 94 votes to 10, with members of the hard-right governing coalition and opposition parties voting in favour.
Israeli Member of Parliament Ofir Katz, from the prime minister’s Likud party, who headed the joint committee that prepared the proposal, suggested it would bring comfort to bereaved families.
“I hope that this step we are taking today is the dawn of a new era. I know and feel from the bottom of my heart that such laws are our true mission as elected officials,” he said.
“I say unequivocally, a terrorist who receives money from the Palestinian Authority, should fly from here to Gaza, anywhere else.”
The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs described the law as “the ugliest form of racism.”
Opposition lawmakers who objected to the bill said it was discriminatory because it would not apply to Jewish Israelis convicted of attacks against Palestinians or other serious offences.
“For example, Yigal Amir murdered a prime minister – not only was his citizenship not revoked, there was no proposal,” said Ahmed Tibi, referring to the Israeli Jewish extremist who assassinated the former prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin.
About a fifth of Israelis are Arab citizens who often identify as and with Palestinians.
Most Palestinians in East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed in a move not recognized internationally, have the status of permanent residents. (Int’l News Desk)