The Israeli parliament has passed a law to prevent Palestinians who marry Israelis from gaining citizenship or the right to live in the Jewish State. Opponents of the move say the legislation is racist, but supporters say it is necessary to prevent Palestinians from going around Israeli immigration laws and threatening Israeli security from inside the country.

The new law is aimed at preventing Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip from gaining Israeli citizenship by marrying Arab citizens of Israel.

It will deny Palestinians who marry Israeli Arabs the right to become citizens or live with their spouses inside the Jewish State.

The legislation, which has been denounced by its opponents as racist and inhumane, was passed by the parliament, 53 votes to 25, with one abstention.

A prominent Arab member of the Israeli parliament, Ahmed Tibi, said he plans to launch a legal challenge against the new law. "It is an anti-civil, anti-democratic law, assassination of the concept of absolute democracy," he said. "I am very much upset, and I am sure that we will appeal to the High Court because of that."

The Israeli Justice Minister, Tommy Lapid, defended the move, saying it is designed to prevent thousands of Palestinians from using what he called bogus marriages to gain the right to live in Israel. "This is a law which is preventing the flooding of Israel with Palestinians who are using the ruse of pretending to want to marry somebody," he said.

Mr. Lapid says that under the legislation the Interior Minister still has the right to grant exemptions, in cases where it is deemed that the marriage is not an attempt to circumvent Israel's immigration laws.

The Israeli government says that since 1993 some 100,000 Palestinians have been granted residency rights in Israel through marriage.

Gideon Ezra, the Israeli Cabinet Minister who serves as a liaison to the parliament, says that the situation, "had spun out of control."

He says such immigration during the past decade had also endangered the country's security. He says some 30 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians who gained citizenship and residency rights through marriage.