The High Court of Justice's ruling Wednesday on the legality of the Citizenship Law proves the erosion of this institution's role as Israel's guardian of civil rights. Let's look at how the justices voted at the moment of truth on the law, which bans Palestinians from living in Israel with spouses who are Israeli citizens.
In a 2006 ruling, 6 out of 11 justices said the law was unconstitutional, and in the current ruling, 6 out of 11 justices said the law, which was made more strict after the first ruling, was constitutional. That's a disappointing outcome, in part because the first ruling was made not long after the terror attacks of the second intifada, while the current ruling was made during a period of calm, due in part to coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
The title that Justice Asher Grunis gave his opinion - "Human rights are not a prescription for national suicide" - is also disappointing. No one disagrees with this, but Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, who arrived at the same judicial conclusion, recognizes that "a small group - those men and women in Israel's Arab minority who want to marry residents of the region - must pay a heavy price for greater security for all Israelis, including their own."
Justice Grunis apparently would not agree to this wording; as he put it, he's not someone who gives the "constitutional rights that are mentioned in the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty the most expanded and comprehensive interpretation."
Justice Miriam Naor's opinion is disappointing - that the constitutional right to family life means everything, but establishing a family with a foreign spouse in Israel should not receive constitutional protection. It's hard to accept this contradiction, which imposes on other countries a burden that Israel is unwilling to bear and hurts Israeli citizens' right to family life.
The dissenting opinion properly balances the security needs of all citizens and the rights of individuals; the law should be annulled and replaced with security checks of any candidate for residence in Israel when family unification is involved.
The ruling touches on the balance between security needs and individual rights, but the public will understand it as a demographic ruling - one that protects the Jewish majority while harming the rights of Arab citizens. And thus the ruling pushes Israel down the slope of apartheid.
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