11 Justices to Debate Ban on Palestinian Spouses in Israel

A panel of 11 Supreme Court Justices will meet this morning to deliberate an issue of considerable public dispute - the Citizenship Law amendment preventing Palestinians married to Arab Israelis from becoming Israeli residents or citizens.

Four petitions have been filed against the amendment, by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the Hamoked Center for the Defense of the Individual, Adalah and former Meretz MK Zahava Gal-On.

Its opponents say it is unconstitutional because it violates the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty, and damages the right to raise a family in Israel regardless of national or ethnic criteria.

During deliberations before a panel of seven justices on petitions filed a year ago, state attorney Yochi Gnesin said that the problem lies in Palestinians' overwhelming support for terrorism against Israel.

"We cannot foresee when and at which stage a person will decide to carry out an attack or aid his cousin to bring a bomb into Israel," she said.

Gnesin also said that a person with Israeli residency becomes more attractive to terrorists, and that a year or so after becoming a resident, "links up with terrorists."

As such, she argued that Shin Bet scrutiny of potential residents is not enough to ensure these people are not involved in terrorism.

Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch noted then that "the temporary nature [of the amendment] is temporary," criticizing the state's repeated extensions for the "temporary" amendment.

Gnesin excused the extension by citing the security situation and the need to prevent terrorism.

Dan Yakir, the ACRI's legal counselor, said the amendment should be evaluated in terms of its broader implications, due to how it violates couples' rights.

Yakir also noted that in spite the "security difficulties," the defense establishment authorized the entry of some 20,000 Palestinians to work in Israel, showing that when economic interests are concerned, the defense establishment can evaluate the risk posed by Palestinians.

Ahead of the deliberations, four organizations asked to be included among those responding to the petitions: Shurat HaDin - Israel Law Center, Fence for Life, Im Tirtzu and the New Zionist movement.

The New Zionist movement said that the petitions against the constitutionality of the amendment threaten the country's existence as the Jewish homeland, and that doing away with the law will increase the Arab population by 200,000 "persons hostile to the Zionist enterprise."

Dr. Allan Bower, who was injured along with his son Jonathan in central Jerusalem in a terrorist attack eight years ago, told Haaretz that if the amendment is canceled, terrorism could increase.

"If the amendment is canceled, Palestinian terrorists may use this to harm Israel. The problem in Israel is that responsibility is never taken for negligence that results in increased terrorism against Israelis," he said.