Right-wing MK ‘Give Palestinians Israeli citizenship’

By Nathan Jeffay, March 4, 2010

Tzipi Hotovely, an MK on the right flank of the Likud, surprised political observers last month by saying that Israel should give citizenship to Palestinians in the West Bank.

The country's political centre is increasingly talking about this scenario - but as a potentially disastrous move that will be forced on them if attempts to create a Palestinian state fail.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak said earlier this month that Israel needs a Palestinian state to come into existence because, without one, it has only two options - to become a "bi-national country" or "an apartheid country".

But Ms Hotovely claims that having just one state between Jordan and the Mediterranean need not lead to either of these options. There would be "no real demographic danger" in giving full citizenship to West Bank Palestinians, she said, explaining that Israel's Jewish majority is guaranteed for the foreseeable future.

She considers the projected growth of the Palestinian population to be widely overstated, and also proposes bolstering the Jewish population by encouraging hundreds of thousands of diaspora Jews to make aliyah. In addition, she expects Palestinian birth-rates, currently higher than those of Israelis, to go down if they are given citizenship.

I’m young enough to believe politicians should keep their promises

"As long as they are living under a Western regime under the influence of education, women have fewer children," she said, adding that the exception to that rule, "thank God", is Charedi Jews, who bolster the Jewish demographic.

While her proposal is admittedly "revolutionary", she sees it as just another means to an old end.

"I'm coming from a very clear agenda. I really believe that this is the land of the Jewish people and we shouldn't apologise for Judea and Samaria or east Jerusalem being part of our country."

She said: "We can't live for over 40 years in some temporary situation when there are 200,000 Jews and a large population of Palestinians [in the West Bank] - we need to make the law apply to everyone."

According to her plan, in coordination with Palestinian leaders, Israel would offer citizenship to all West Bank Palestinians with the exception of those belonging to organisations that want to destroy Israel.

"No citizens in the world would be willing to stand citizens who want to destroy it from the inside."

Israel would enact a basic law to ensure that it remains a Jewish state whatever its demographics.

Ms Hotovely, at 31 years old the Knesset's youngest member, has become one of the country's highest-profile backbenchers since she was elected a year ago. Well-known before entering politics as a panellist on the Channel 10 programme Council of the Wise and as a columnist in the daily newspaper Ma'ariv, she was recruited by now-PM Binyamin Netanyahu ahead of the election.

She is thought to have boosted Likud's popularity in the religious community, as she is a religious-Zionist who was heavily involved in Bnei Akiva - although she does not always agree with her community's leadership. In addition, Ms Hotovely has been harshly critical of Mr Netanyahu's decision to apply a temporary freeze on building in the West Bank.

"I'm young enough to believe that politicians should keep their promises," she said.

Ms Hotovely downplays rumoured tensions between her and Mr Netanyahu, claiming that he sees her as a younger version of himself who is able to say things he cannot.

"I'm allowed to say as a member of Knesset - he's more restrained, he has less freedom to say what he wants."

Last updated: 4:58pm, March 4 2010