Court Rules Child Can Become Israeli Without Approval of Jordanian Father

In the verdict, the judge said that by law, the welfare of the children must come first thereby ending 10-year legal battle

Chen Maanit
Chen Maanit
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A mother and a child walk through the streets of a Tel Aviv suburb, last year.
A mother and a child walk through the streets of a Tel Aviv suburb, last year.Credit: Hadas Parush
Chen Maanit
Chen Maanit

The naturalization of a non-citizen child, whose mother is Israeli, cannot be conditioned on the approval of the child's Jordanian father, so ruled a court in Israel on Sunday.

Haifa District Court President Judge Ron Shapira ruled that the Population and Immigration Authority, a wing of the Interior Ministry, wrongly ordered the granting of Israeli citizenship to the children be conditioned on their father's approval.

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The children's mother is Israeli and has full custody. In his ruling, Shapira noted that by law, the welfare of the children must come first.

The father’s consent or opposition, he wrote, should not be a factor especially in this case, “in which the totality of the information shows that the father in fact abandoned his children and shows no interest in their situation or their future.”

Shapira criticized the agency’s attitude toward the woman and her children. “Beyond the fact that the administrative authority exceeded the protocols outlined in the law and ignored the basic principle of the wellbeing of the child, I believe that the administrative authority’s conduct in the petitioners’ request, as it was presented to me, raises a difficulty.”

The difficulty, Shapira wrote, is that “the children’s mother has been trying for nearly 10 years to regularize the children’s rights and status.” In the meantime, the state “delayed dealing with the request of the petitioners and continued to demand the agreement of the father according to procedure without looking thoroughly in the claims of the petitioners that under the circumstances the procedure had been wrongly applied.”

The woman was born in Israel in 1976 to an Israeli mother. At the age of 12 she went to live with her father in the West Bank. Shortly after turning 18, she married a relative who lives in Jordan, and in 1995 she moved there to live with him. She received Jordanian citizenship, as did the children to whom she gave birth.

In her petition against the Interior Ministry, the woman said she divorced her husband in 2011, after he subjected her and their children to violence and other forms of abuse. She agreed to waive the repayment of her dowry as well as child support payments, in exchange for receiving custody of her children. The agreement was approved by the Sharia Court in Jordan as well as the Sharia Court in Haifa.

Around the time of her divorce, the woman returned to Israel with her children, and went to the Population and Immigration Authority to arrange her children’s citizenship status. Initially, the agency refused to give legal status to the woman, who was forced to take legal measures to obtain Israeli citizenship. After she did so, the agency refused to recognize her children as Israeli citizens, saying they were “residents of the area” and thereby subject to the provisions of the Entry to Israel Law, which applies to non-citizens of Israel.

The woman then turned to the Haifa District Court. Acting through her lawyer, Ronen Shklarsh, she asked the court to order the immigration agency not to condition her children’s citizenship on the consent or opposition of their father.

The Population and Immigration Authority asked the court to reject the petition. It argued that in cases like the woman’s, the Citizenship Law stipulated that a minor child can be naturalized only if the parent who is not becoming a citizen has no objection and the other parent has custody rights over the child at the time. According to the agency, as long as it had not been determined that the mother had sole custody of her minor children when she became a citizen, the father must be given an opportunity to object.

“The petitioner has sole custody of her minor children, and therefore it appears that the demand to receive the father’s declaration has no place in this case,” the judge concluded, and ordered the Population and Immigration Authority to pay court costs of 30,000 shekels ($9,300).

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