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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 July, 2003, 15:17 GMT 16:17 UK
Israeli law limits Arab citizenship
Orthodox Jews
Supporters of the bill fear the loss of Israel's Jewish character
The Israeli parliament passed a law preventing Palestinians married to Israelis from gaining Israeli citizenship.

Human rights groups have condemned the law as racist but supporters say it is necessary for security reasons and to maintain the Jewish character of the state of Israel.

The law will prevent Palestinians from the occupied territories in the West Bank and Gaza from marrying Arab-Israelis, who make up about 20% of the population of Israel.

A total of 53 deputies voted for the measure and 25 against, while there was one abstention, according to a spokesman.

Until now, the Israeli interior minister has had the final say on whether Palestinians who marry Israeli citizens can receive citizenship and make a home in Israel.

Interior Minister Avraham Poraz said he welcomed the proposed bill - reluctantly.

"I wish we didn't need this law, I'm not thrilled with it, but there was a government decision and I must follow it," he said.

According to the government, 16,000 applications were approved in the past decade after intense security checks.

Controversy

But the minister in charge of relations with parliament, Gideon Ezra, has defended the bill on the grounds that 30 Israelis have been allegedly killed by Palestinians who gained citizenship and residency rights through marriage.

"The phenomenon has spun out control, with more then 100,000 Palestinians from Judea and Samaria (as Israelis call the West Bank) and Gaza obtaining Israeli identity cards since the 1993 Oslo (autonomy) accords," Mr Ezra said.

Arab MP Ahmad Tibi described the law as "inhuman", while leftist deputy Zeeva Galon has warned that the law will "deny the fundamental right of Arab Israelis to start families".

The new law, which applies only to Palestinians, will prevent the approval of any future or pending applications.


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