Gov't: Extend Citizenship Law by Two Years and Expand It to Cover 'Risk States'

The government proposes to extend the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (the Temporary Order known as the "Citizenship Law"), by two years, until the end of 2008, despite the harsh criticism leveled at it by the High Court of Justice.

The current Temporary Order is valid until January 16, 2007, and must either be extended or replaced before that date. Last week the Ministry of Interior legal adviser, Yehuda Zameret, issued a memorandum of the new draft law.

The government seeks to expand the law to cover several "threat states," presumably mainly Arab and Muslim countries.

The bill gives Israel the right to reject an applicant who meets all the criteria "if in the applicant's country of residency or if within his vicinity of residence activities liable to endanger the security of the State of Israel or its citizens take place." This clause ostensibly gives Israel the right to reject any resident of the Palestinian Authority or any Arab country.

On May 2, 2002 the government decided for the first time to freeze all family reunification proceedings between residents and citizens of Israel and residents of the PA, on the grounds of "increasing involvement by Palestinians from the region [i.e. the PA - Shahar Ilan] with Israeli identification cards as a result of family reunification, who exploited their status in Israel to engage in terror activities."

In mid-2003 the cabinet resolution became a Temporary Order, which has since been extended three times. In mid-2005 certain provisions were relaxed to enable family reunification in cases where the husband is at least 35- and the wife at least 25-years-old.

On May 14 of this year, an 11-justice panel of the High Court approved the Temporary Order by a vote of six to five. Former Chief Justice Aharon Barak, siding with the minority, argued that "the appropriate goal of increasing security is not justifying severe harm to many thousands of Israeli citizens."

It was clear from the ruling that extending the order could drastically change the status of the justices, and thus it is reasonable to assume that the issue will return to the High Court very shortly. Zameret's memorandum of last week, on the other hand, claimed that the draft bill is in keeping with the High Court ruling according to which accommodation must be available to deal with exceptional humanitarian cases.