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Law to strip terrorists of Israeli citizenship advances in Knesset

One hundred and six lawmakers have already expressed support for the bill, says Maurice Hirsch of Palestinian Media Watch.

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

A special joint Knesset committee approved the preliminary reading of a proposed law that would revoke Israeli citizenship, or residency, from terrorists who receive payments from the Palestinian Authority for their violent deeds, in a practice commonly known as pay-for-slay.

According to the bill’s provisions, a terrorist with Israeli citizenship who receives P.A. money as a reward will be stripped of Israeli citizenship through a legal process that involves the minister of interior submitting a request to a court, which will approve or deny the request. The process is to take place while the terrorist is in prison. Once the terrorist completes his prison term, he is released not back into Israel proper but to P.A.-controlled territory.

The legislation is the brainchild of Palestinian Media Watch, an NGO that has been heavily involved in issues related to the P.A.’s pay-for-slay program. “We came up with the idea. We initiated it,” IDF Lt. Col. (res.) Maurice Hirsch, director of legal strategies for PMW, told JNS.

“The way that we explained the law throughout the [Knesset] hearings is that the Palestinian Authority sees all terrorists, including the Israeli Arab terrorists, as its soldiers. They say you can’t send a soldier to war without looking after his family. The terrorists see themselves as soldiers of the Palestinians, and when they request and receive payment from the P.A. as a reward for their acts of terror, they complete the cycle,” Hirsch said.

“What you have here is the creation of soldiers of a foreign and hostile entity. In such a case, it’s clear that it’s justified to revoke citizenship. There are, among other places, 12 different countries in Europe that consider just joining foreign armed forces a basis for canceling citizenship. Here we have not only joining a foreign army, as it were, but really fighting for and carrying out acts of terror on behalf of that foreign army and then being rewarded for those acts of terror.”

Hirsch said that the chances of the bill passing are excellent. “One hundred and six Knesset members have already expressed their support for the law,” he said, noting that the Labor Party may also join in the effort. “Potentially it will pass with a majority of 110 votes to 10.”

He expects the bill to become law within two to three weeks. It goes before the Knesset plenum next Monday for the first of three additional required votes. There will be further committee discussions, but those should go quickly as debate on most major issues has already been held.

The proposed law is one devoutly wished for by families of terror victims. Although there is a law on the books to revoke citizenship, Hirsch said it involves a “long and arduous process” and “there is no certainty at the end how the judge will decide.” The new bill would strip citizenship from a terrorist within six weeks, start to finish.

Micah Lakin Avni, whose father was killed by terrorists on the No. 78 bus in Jerusalem in October 2015, told JNS, “This is a law that should pass as soon as possible with a 100% majority. There is no conscionable argument for opposing this law. Any Knesset member who opposes this law will essentially be saying, ‘I support rewarding acts of terror aimed at killing Jews and destroying the State of Israel.’

“My father, Richard Lakin, was brutally murdered by two terrorists who held Israeli national identity cards. One of the terrorists is serving a life sentence in Israeli prison for his crime. It is unconscionable that the terrorist, whose stated aim is to kill Jews and destroy the State of Israel, and who receives monthly payments from the Palestinian Authority as a reward for killing my father, be permitted to vote in Israeli elections. The terrorist’s stated goal is to kill Jews and destroy Israel. He is our enemy and must be treated as such.”

Hirsch said the legislation is critical as Israeli Arabs make up a large proportion of terrorists. “There are 1,000 Israeli Arab terrorists in prison at the moment, which is one-fifth of the entire terrorist population. Of them, 300 are Israeli citizens, and 700 are [permanent] residents.”

Hirsch, who also heads the Minister of Interior’s National Advisory Committee for the Cancellation of Citizenship, expects the law to act as a major deterrent for would-be terrorists. Although the terrorists carry out acts in the name of Palestinian nationhood, none of them appears to want to live under Palestinian rule.

“I think there are many terrorists who will forgo the payments in fear of losing their citizenship. When someone who lives in Jerusalem and can wander around the country freely suddenly finds that he’s going to find himself not only in prison but also potentially expelled to Gaza, it’s quite a deterrent,” Hirsch said. “I think it’ll be a deterrent to carrying out terror at all. And those who have already carried out their acts of terror will suddenly have the fear of God put in them that they will be released not to Jerusalem, not back to their cushy life, but suddenly to Gaza.”

Jail is not much of a deterrent because “conditions in general are quite good.” Prisoners pursue college degrees while receiving large payments from the P.A., and once they exit prison they’re treated as national heroes—“not to mention that the sentences themselves are often very low,” said Hirsch, who had at one time served as head of the military prosecution in Judea and Samaria.

“This will either be a deterrent and will bring about a tremendous and drastic fall in the participation of Israeli Arabs in terror, or the alternative is that many of them will find themselves fulfilling their wish to be Palestinian,” he said.

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