Top Israeli Justice Slams 'Joke' Policy to Maintain Expired Palestinian Reunification Ban

After a Palestinian woman's application for Israeli citizenship was denied, a supreme court justice criticized Interior Minister Shaked for ignoring the July expiration of the family reunification ban

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Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, last week.
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, last week.Credit: Noam Rivkin Panton / Flash 90

A Supreme Court Justice harshly criticized the policy of Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, who decided that her ministry would continue refusing to process requests for family unification of Palestinians married to Israeli citizens – although the ban on such family unification expired.

The law, passed as a temporary order in 2003 and renewed annually, intended to prevent granting citizenship status to Palestinians married to Israelis, but expired in July.

Despite this, in September, Haaretz reported that Shaked ordered the Population, Immigration and Border Authority in her ministry to handle Palestinian requests for family reunification as if the temporary law restricting reunification was still in force.

“It’s a joke, we saw the Israeli Knesset decide not to extend the law, it’s clear that there cannot be an attempt to preserve a rule of law without it existing… There is no longer an emergency order, what are we discussing here?” said Supreme Court Justice Uzi Vogelman, during a hearing on a confidential case regarding a Palestinian woman whose application for citizenship was denied.

Israeli Supreme Court Justice Uzi Vogelman.

At the Supreme Court hearing, the state representative, Attorney Udi Eitan from the State Prosecutor’s Office, said the woman had to re-apply to a "humanitarian committee," but the Supreme Court Justice asked how it was possible to “operate a committee under the force of a law that has expired?”

Eitan explained that Shaked had issued a temporary protocol "by virtue of which the committee continues to operate," prompting criticism from Vogelman, who argued that the law could not be implemented in a temporary procedure after the Knesset decided not to renew it.

The Justice ruled that the state must therefore reconsider its decision concerning the woman’s residency request. Eitan refused to "commit" to reevaluating, but said he "heard" Vogelman's comments.

The case in question deals with a Palestinian woman who was previously married to an Arab citizen of Israel as well as an Israel Jew, both of whom were violent towards her. After marrying a Jew, her family threatened to harm her. Afraid to return to the Palestinian Authority, she remained in Israel.

The woman has been living in Israel for 25 years with a residency permit, which does not provide her with social services. Her children suffer from medical problems and disabilities and – even though they are Israeli citizens – are not eligible for social benefits and state aid since they are under the guardianship of a single parent with only a residency permit.

In 1998, while married to an Israeli citizen, the woman submitted a request to receive residency status in Israel, which would provide her and her children with social welfare benefits. However, the Population and Immigration Authority denied her request under the Citizenship Law. Later, she filed an administrative appeal in the Jerusalem District Court. In July 2020, Judge Alexander Ron denied the appeal and criticized the woman for exploiting her children in order to receive residency in Israel.

Attorney Hagar Shechter, who is representing the woman, appealed this ruling to the Supreme Court, and a hearing was held two weeks ago before Justices Vogelman, Isaac Amit and David Mintz.

A protest against the Citizenship Law outside the Knesset, in June.Credit: MENAHEM KAHANA - AFP

At the beginning of the hearing, Judge Amit criticized Judge Ron for saying the woman had taken advantage of her children: “This phrasing was inappropriate, that she is using her daughter.”

Vogelman said her arguments were acceptable to the justices – and hinted to the government’s lawyers that the state’s position was not. "We see many cases of this kind unfortunately, this is a case that needs to be reconsidered."

The 2003 temporary family reunification law, officially an amendment to the Citizenship and Entry to Israel Law, was initially enacted at the height of the second intifada for security reasons, and has been extended every year thereafter.

But this year, the new government was unable to muster a majority to extend it again, and it expired on July 6.

After the law expired, hundreds of Palestinians submitted requests to receive residency in Israel, and given the lack of a new law, they should have been accepted. But Palestinians who filed requests with the Population Authority did not receive responses, or were told: “New appointments cannot be scheduled until additional instructions are received.”

As a result, a number of human rights organizations, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights and HaMoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual, filed a petition to the High Court of Justice over Shaked’s instructions. At the same time, other proceedings against the new rules are underway in the Jerusalem District Court.

The amendment imposed two main restrictions on family unification between Palestinians and Israelis: It did not allow Palestinians to receive the status of citizen, but at most to receive a residence 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 before the age of 35 for Palestinian men or 25 for Palestinian women.

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