Court: State Must Submit Criteria for Palestinians to Enter Israel

Sweeping ban prevents Palestinian students from studying in Israel; High Court rules state must consider entry applications.

The High Court of Justice ruled Monday that the state must submit within 60 days the list of criteria that it would require of Palestinian students applying for permits to enter Israel to attend classes.

Until now, there had been no criteria and all the applications were uniformly denied as part of a sweeping ban preventing Palestinian students from entering Israel.

The state contended at the hearing that it would be technically impossible to conduct a security check on every student and make an individual assessment of the security risk he or she may pose to Israel. There are too many students for that to be feasible, they said.

The High Court of Justice instructed the state to submit the exact number of Palestinian students seeking to study in Israel.

The petition on which the Court ruled was submitted by Gisha (access), an association that advocates freedom of movement in the territories. The petition was submitted on the behalf of Sawsan Salameh, who received an excellence scholarship to attend Hebrew University's doctoral program. Salameh lives in the West Bank, and there is no doctoral program available to her within the Palestinian Authority.

As a result of the petition, Salameh has recently been granted entry into Israel, but only for a period of time no longer than six months, not nearly enough time to complete her doctoral studies.

Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch ruled that when the Salameh's six months expire, the state must reconsider her application to extend her permit. In the absence of a "security or private reason preventing the extension of the permit, we assume the renewed permit will be granted," she said.

The defense establishment refused to allow Salameh to attend her doctoral program. Salameh's request was rejected without asserting that she was herself a security threat, and without running a security check on her, as required by general policy.

Director of Gisha, attorney Sari Bashi, said that the court's decision was "an indication that the army cannot automatically veto the education of Palestinians in Israel. It is an unequivocal declaration that Israeli Universities have the academic freedom to grant an education to any student, regardless of religion or nationality."