Roni Sofer
January 10, 2011 - 1:00am,7340,L-4011469,00.html

The Knesset's Internal Affairs Committee on Monday approved a bill allowing citizenship to be revoked from Israelis convicted of terror or espionage crimes. The bill will be brought to the Knesset plenum for its first reading.

The Shin Bet, which had previously supported the motion, announced during the discussion that they had reversed their opinion on the matter. A stormy verbal confrontation broke out during the meeting between the initiator of the bill, Knesset Member David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu), and Balad Chairman MK Jamal Zahalka.

The bill received the support of four committee members, while three opposed and one abstained.

"After considering the various aspects of the issue, the Shin Bet stance is not to support the bill," a Justice Ministry representative said on behalf of the Shin Bet. "The law in its current formula, supplies a fitting response to the occasional arising need to revoke the citizenship of an Israeli citizen in a way that realizes both the deterrence of the individual in question and as a public deterrent."

The Shin Bet also stated that "the bill's approach to the issue creates a new route to revoking citizenship as an additional sanction through which the courts can punish the accused in criminal proceedings; this is contrary to the existing approach which sees the move as an administrative process. The way suggested in this case is too broad and lacking in balancing mechanisms which exist in the law in its current formula."

After reading out the Shin Bet's stance on the matter, MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) expressed his determined opposition of the bill. "In the modern world, a man cannot live as anything but a citizen. If a person committed a crime, there are penalties in the penal code. Citizenship is neither a punishment nor an award. This is one of many initiatives which would only allow a certain group of people become citizens."

MK Zahalka said to MK Rotem, "You're a fascist". Rotem responded with "you're a big traitor, not a small one. You support spies."

According to the bill, which has already passed its preliminary reading, the courts or administrative authority with have the authority to revoke the Israeli citizenship of any person convicted of spying for a terror organization, or revoking their status as permanent residents.

MK Rotem said that "it is necessary that a situation where MKs betray the Knesset and are still allowed to be part of this country is avoided," referring to former Balad Chairman Azmi Bishara, who fled the country after being interrogated by the Shin Bet a number of times over suspicions that he shared intelligence with the Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War.


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