An amendment to the Entry into Israel Law that significantly increases fines and prison sentences for people who transport, accommodate or employ illegal residents passed its second and third (final) readings in the Knesset plenum Monday evening.

Forty-four MKs voted in favor of the legislation, while 16 lawmakers opposed the legislation, which consolidated a government-sponsored bill and a bill that was introduced by MK Mordhay Yogev (HaBayit HaYehudi).

The amendment provides for penalties ranging from up to two years’ imprisonment and/or fines ranging from NIS 5,000 to NIS 75,000 for individuals employing or providing accommodation to an illegal resident just once, with fines of up to NIS 226,000 and/or prison terms of up to four years for those doing so for more than two consecutive days.

It also widens the definition of “employer” to include any person or body that employs or facilitates the stay of illegal residents indirectly, such as contracting companies employing subsidiary companies which in turn, employ illegal laborers.

Knesset approves harsher punishments for employing, accommodating or transporting illegal residents

Security fence

Corporations that subcontract labor will have to set up their own supervisory mechanisms to ensure that all workers have the correct papers. Those caught subcontracting illegal workers on an ongoing basis will face fines of up to NIS 452,000.

For the first time, police will be able to close — for 30 days — building sites, restaurants and any other businesses found to be employing illegal residents, and the courts will be able to extend such closures.

The courts will also be given the powers to cancel a corporation’s business license and building permits.

The explanatory notes accompanying the bill state that ”the security situation has deteriorated as of late, including the throwing of bombs, stabbings and terror attacks against the citizens of Israel with knives and other weapons. Moreover, there is involvement of illegal residents in terrorist activity against the citizens of Israel, and the past few years have seen a rise in the number Palestinians who reside in the State of Israel illegally… One of the ways to attack the illegal residents phenomenon is to carry out enforcement measures against those who assist illegal residents – transporters, accommodators and employers – who ease the illegal residents` entry into Israel and their assimilation.”

Prior to the vote, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) said, ”Apparently there are Palestinians who think Israel is a place that is not bad at all, but this phenomenon creates very significant dangers, particularly when we are in the midst of a wave of terror carried out by lone [terrorists] who are driven by incitement.”

MK Revital Swid of the Zionist Camp said the faction would support the legislation despite the fact that it ”does not provide any tool.” Rather, she said, the bill ”illustrates the helplessness of the Likud, the government and the prime minister.”

MK Dov Khenin (Joint List) said the legislation will not reduce the number of illegal residents, ”because in the reality under Israeli rule in the territories live people who are in a state of poverty and unemployment. People enter Israel [illegally] mainly to bring bread to their families.”

MK Talab Abu Arar (Joint List) said: ”Anyone who believes this racist legislation will bring calm or security is either foolish or rude. Less than a year ago we warned from this platform against the continued desecration of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and that the entry of Jews [to the site] would lead to an intifada, and then the intifada began, but no one listened to us. The government said the wave would pass, but do not delude yourselves; this is not a wave, it is an intifada. Now is the right time for the government to acknowledge that the continued occupation, the policy of oppression and the racist legislation increase violence and ignite the region. Those who support this bill are more dangerous to the Palestinians than (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu is.”

MK Yousef Jabareen called the legislation ”draconian,” ”disproportionate” and ”unconstitutional” and argued that it ”hurts Arab citizens of Israel whose partners are from the territories.”

MK Yogev noted that the bill was introduced during the previous Knesset following an increase in the number of terror attacks. ”Following the latest terror attack, in which some of the attackers were illegal residents, the bill was introduced as a government-sponsored proposal which I support,” he said. ”I am in favor of issuing many additional permits for Palestinians who seek work, but the illegal entry [of Palestinians] has intensified over the past few years, and so has the potential of a threat, to the point of murder, and many people have lost their lives. This law will contribute to the `toolbox` of deterrence and punishment.”