Hundreds of Palestinians Married to Israelis Apply for Residency Since Ban Expired

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A protest against the citizenship law by the Knesset, in June.
A protest against the citizenship law by the Knesset, in June.Credit: Menahem Kahana/AFP

Hundreds of mixed Israeli and Palestinian families have filed for unification in the past 30 days, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked said Monday, a month after the Knesset refused to extend a long-standing regulation denying permanent residency status to Palestinians married to Israelis.

Before the July vote, in which the temporary amendment to the Citizenship Law was voted down for the first time since the early 2000s, the Immigration and Population Authority received on average 1,000 reunification requests from Palestinians annually, Shaked told Israel Radio. There have been 785 requests in the past month. 

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Shaked added that the Immigration and Population Authority also received 2,000 Palestinian requests to upgrade their temporary residency permits to full citizenship since the law expired.

Protestors against the citizenship law by the Knesset, in July.Credit: Menahem Kahana/AFP

"This is the damage caused in one month [because] the law wasn't passed," the minister said.

Last month, Haaretz reported that Shaked had instructed Interior Ministry staff to refuse to process family reunification requests until a new protocol was formulated to handle the applications. The protocol, which would include background security checks of the applicants, was undergoing rapid development, a source in the Immigration and Population Authority said.

Meanwhile, Shaked has been pushing to put the amendment up for another vote when the Knesset returns from its break. "The opposition made a terrible mistake with the Citizenship Law," she told Israel Radio. "This vote by Likud, the ultra-Orthodox parties and the Religious Zionists against the Citizenship Law is to me a vote against the State of Israel. A disaster [like this] had never occurred before, in which Zionist opposition parties voted against this law."

The temporary order expired on July 6, after the government coalition failed to win a majority for extending it. The temporary order was passed as an emergency amendment to the Citizenship Law during the second intifada in 2003, and since then it has been extended every year. The government claims that the amendment was passed for security reasons, due to the involvement in terrorism of Palestinian residents of the territories who received a permit to live in Israel for family reunification.

The amendment imposed two main restrictions on family unification between Palestinians and Israelis: It did not allow Palestinians to receive citizenship, but at most to receive a residency permit in Israel (also called a “family unification permit”), which is equivalent to a work permit and is renewed every year or two. It also did not allow the submission of a request for family unification for Palestinian men under the age of 35 or Palestinian women under 25.

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