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Knesset passes law stripping citizenship of terrorists paid by PA

The new law, which drew support from opposition members, applies to terrorists who receive “salaries” from the Palestinian Authority as part of its “pay for slay” program.

The Knesset Assembly Hall, June 30, 2022. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.
The Knesset Assembly Hall, June 30, 2022. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.

The Knesset passed legislation on Wednesday stripping the citizenship of terrorists who receive stipends from the Palestinian Authority as part of Ramallah’s “pay for slay” policy.

The new law, which drew support from opposition MKs, applies to Israeli citizens and permanent residents convicted of terrorism, aiding terrorism, inciting war or aiding an enemy. It gives the interior minister authority to revoke citizenship and resident status after a mandatory hearing and, if citizenship is revoked, deny entry of those expelled into Israel.

The law passed in a 94-10 vote on its third and final reading, garnering rare cross-Knesset support.

The development comes after a string of deadly terrorist attacks in recent days carried out by Arab Israelis.

“Our answer to terrorism is to strike back hard,” tweeted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following the vote.

Added National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir: “We succeeded to pass in the Knesset the important law to deny citizenship to terrorists. Whoever tries to harm us does not deserve to live in our country. This is an important step in the war against terrorism, one of many that I am demanding.”

Ben-Gvir has repeatedly called for the Knesset to pass a law to apply the death penalty to terrorists.

According to NGO Palestinian Media Watch, Israeli citizens Karim and Maher Younis, who were released from prison last month after serving 40-year sentences for murdering an Israeli soldier, have received more money from the P.A. under “pay for slay” than any other terrorists.

PMW filed a complaint to the State’s Attorney’s Office on the matter late last year, said Maurice Hirsch, the organization’s head of legal strategies.

“We know that this happened because we took the information from an order by [then-Defense Minister Benny] Gantz in September 2022 to seize millions of shekels that were paid by the P.A. to Israeli Arab terrorists. The document stipulated that both Karim and Maher Younis had each received 335,362 shekels [$98,698] from the P.A. in compensation for murdering an Israeli soldier,” said Hirsch.

“There were 49 terrorists included on the list, with Karim and Maher Younis having received the largest sums,” he said, adding that PMW had submitted the complaint to the Israel Police as well.

Karim and Maher Younis murdered Israel Defense Forces Cpl. Avraham Bromberg on the Golan Heights in 1980. Both were sentenced to life in prison in 1983 but had their sentence commuted to 40 years in 2012 by then-Israeli President Shimon Peres.­

In response to what it described as the P.A.’s ongoing “political and legal war” against the Jewish state, the Israeli Security Cabinet last month decided, among other measures, to withhold taxes and tariffs collected on behalf of and transferred to the P.A., in an amount equal to that which Ramallah paid to terrorists and their families in 2022 under its “pay-for-slay” policy.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich shortly thereafter announced the signing of an order doubling that amount, along with the transfer of some of the withheld funds to Israeli families of Palestinian terror victims.

“The P.A. finances terrorists and the State of Israel is saying ‘Enough.’ Israeli citizens will not be a part of this farce,” said Smotrich at the time.

More than 90 countries subsequently signed a letter demanding the “immediate” reversal of Israel’s attempt to dissuade the P.A. from providing financial incentive to commit terrorism.

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