As Israel’s far right parties celebrate, Palestinians shrug
By Tom Holland
16 December 2017
When the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, convened on Tuesday, it was scheduled to enact a number of laws, among them a new law granting Palestinians the right to vote.
This was not the first time that Knesset officials would table a contentious Palestinian bill before the annual session. When it was first proposed, in 2012, the Knesset rejected it on the grounds that it was unconstitutional, an indication of the political paralysis of Israel’s right-wing government.
The new bill, which was approved on Tuesday, makes an important change to the law that Israel passed in 1992, which had granted Palestinian citizens the right to vote in Israeli elections.
The new bill does away with the citizenship question when selecting candidates for the Knesset, enabling all Israeli citizens who are Jewish, Christian or Moslem to vote in a national election.
This is a clear attempt by Israel’s right-wing government to suppress the votes of Palestinians in this election.
At the time of its passage, in late 2015, the Knesset rejected the bill on the basis that it was a violation of the right to vote. The opposition leader in the Knesset, Avi Dichter, a member of the Likud Party, warned that the law would lead to a “nightmare of a future” in which Israelis could not vote in elections and then seek justice in the courts.
The Knesset also rejected the Palestinian bill by a vote of 57 to 12. This is not, however, the final word on the matter.
As a means of preserving the credibility of its government, Israel has made a point in the past of passing measures that do not affect the rights of the local population, even as the government has done deals with the Palestinians in the form of a peace agreement.
In June 2011, Israel agreed with the PA (which at that point was governed by Mahmoud Abbas) to amend its Constitution to grant the Palestinian Authority universal suffrage. In return for this concession, the PA granted Israel the right to vote in Knesset elections.