Palestinian Father of IDF Soldier Granted Permanent Residency in Israel

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Adel Hussein, a resident of Tulkarm who was married to a Jewish woman from Dimona and whose son was a combat soldier in the Israel Defense Forces, is nearing the end of a lengthy struggle to receive Israeli permanent residency.

His battle with the Interior Ministry began in 2005, when he was arrested as an illegal alien. He filed a petition with the High Court of Justice, which ruled that he should receive temporary residency for five years, after which his application for permanent residence would be addressed.

During the 1970s, Hussein met Stella Peretz, a woman from Dimona who worked with him at a Tel Aviv restaurant. The two fell in love, married, and moved to Tulkarm, where their only son, Mohammed, was born. The couple divorced in 1996 and, at Hussein’s insistence, Stella left the territories when the security situation deteriorated. She returned to Dimona with their son, who changed his name to Yossi and adopted a Jewish identity. The couple maintained close contact over the years, despite the divorce, and the family met when circumstances permitted. When Yossi turned 18, he was drafted into the IDF and served as a combat medic in the Bedouin reconnaissance battalion in Gaza. Now aged 31, Yossie is married and a father, living in Dimona.

In terms of the Citizenship Law, Hussein should have been granted permanent residency when his son was conscripted, but the Interior Ministry refused to approve it. Recently, however, Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar agreed to grant the long-sought status. Hussein was thrilled with the decision, albeit somewhat wary, as a veteran of Israeli bureaucracy.

“Until I have the ID card in my hand I’m not celebrating,” he said. “I fought for many years for this moment, but it is subject to a security check I must undergo.”

Under the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order) – 2003, the interior minister has the right to grant residency to a Palestinian, under certain circumstances. One of them is pursuant to a decision by the Committee for Humanitarian Matters, in which case the visa will be a temporary one; another is if the applicant submitted a request for citizenship before 2002 and his request was not dealt with for bureaucratic reasons.

But, under another clause, the interior minister may grant a Palestinian permanent residency and even citizenship, “if he is convinced that the said resident identifies with the State of Israel and its goals, and that the resident or his family members performed a meaningful act to advance the security, economy, or another matter important to the state.” This clause is generally believed to have been written to account for Palestinian informers who help the security forces.

Lawyers and social activists say they aren’t familiar with any cases in the past decade in which a Palestinian was granted permanent residency in Israel. Attorney Oded Feller of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel said that the temporary order in the Citizenship Law does not allow granting permanent status to Palestinians, except for rare exceptions like Hussein’s.

“The only reason to grant [a Palestinian] permanent residency or citizenship today is if the state has a special interest in that person. In recent years, we have not filed any Palestinian requests because the law does not allow it and there is no basis for it. This is an unusual case,” Feller said.

Hussein, now 61, has a home near his family in Dimona, although most days he lives in a laborer’s apartment in Tel Aviv, from which he travels daily to the Ramat Gan restaurant where he works as a chef. He maintains an ongoing relationship with his son and ex-wife, who are the only family he has. “When I have time off I go to meet with the family in Dimona It’s the most natural thing for me,” said Hussein.

Attorney Didi Rothschild, who has represented Hussein since the beginning case, described it as precedent-setting. “I do not know of any other Palestinian who received permanent residency or citizenship following the military service of a relative,” he said.

He noted that nothing has changed in the law or government policy and Sa’ar’s decision was based solely on the same evidence that had been submitted in the past.

“We had filed for permanent residency in the past and it was not approved, which is why we went to the High Court of Justice,” Rothschild said. “To date there has not been a ruling because the Interior Ministry kept delaying the hearings, saying the minister had not yet reached a decision. Now, because of the positive response, there is no need for a High Court ruling.

“I am very pleased that, after a struggle of nearly 10 years, which included two petitions and numerous applications to the interior minister, I was able to convince the state of the justice of the petition and to recognize the special circumstances of Adel and his son Yossi. I wish him and the whole family, including the new grandchild on the way, the best of luck in the future.”

The Interior Ministry’s Population, Immigration and Border Authority said, “The status of Mr. Adel Hussein was indeed approved by the interior minister pursuant to his authority, since he is the father of a soldier, not in the framework of family reunification or by virtue of his having an Israeli partner. Although not the case in this instance, many residents who married Israelis were granted status as a result, although in recent years this is subject to the temporary order of 2003.”

Adel Hussein and his ex-wife Stella at the wedding of their son Yossi in 2011.Credit: Eli Hirschkowitz

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