Israel’s High Court Rejects Petitions Against ‘Citizenship Law’

Law prevents Palestinians married to Israeli Arabs from receiving Israeli citizenship or residency.

Israel’s High Court rejected on Wednesday petitions against the Citizenship Law, which prevents Palestinians married to Israeli Arabs from receiving Israeli citizenship or residency. Six judges voted to reject the petitions, while five voted to accept them.

Israel generally grants citizenship to spouses of Israelis in a gradual process. In the spirit of this process, a similar process was instituted for the naturalization of spouses of permanent residents, though the process is a little longer. A 2002 temporary order excluded Palestinian spouses from these processes and barred them from becoming Israeli citizens.

Emil Salman

In May 2006, the High Court rejected numerous petitions asking to overturn the citizenship law. However, most of the justices wrote that the law constitutes a violation of basic rights, mainly the right to a family life.

In March 2007, in a hearing surrounding later petitions against the law, the state said that an amended version of the temporary order was expected to be approved by the Knesset, and the court consequently ruled that the petitioners would have to revise their petitions in accordance with the amended orders after they were made public. After the hearing, the amended law was made public, and the petitioners maintained that the new version not only extended the validity of the law until July 2008, it also expanded the geographic jurisdiction of the law, making it applicable to spouses from Iran, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq as well as other areas on which the government was free to decide.

Arabs make up about 20 percent of Israel's population of 7 million. About 3 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Many families were divided by cease-fire lines after wars, and over the years, marriage between the two groups has been common.

Since 1993, more than 100,000 Palestinians have obtained Israeli permits in this manner and some Israelis see this as a security threat.