Interior Minister Eli Yishai is expected to ask the cabinet today to extend by another six months an emergency order that significantly limits the possibilities for mixed Palestinian-Israeli couples to live together in Israel. In practical terms, the order prevents the unification of hundreds of families.
The cabinet is expected to approve the extension, despite the sharp criticism of it in the government and by the courts, according to which the order is not grounded in a particular law. The last time the interior minister asked for an extension of the order, the cabinet instructed the justice minister to finish passing legislation on the matter as quickly as possible. This was not done.
This emergency order is a close relative of a Civil Administration decision not to permit family reunifications between Palestinians living in the West Bank and their spouses living abroad, mainly in Jordan. Since 2009, Israel ceased processing family-reunification applications in the West Bank. As a result, many families were split. Some were forced to leave their homes in the territories, others live apart - the husband in Jordan, the wife and children in Israel, or vice versa - while still others disintegrated completely.
The Supreme Court ruled at the time that the right to a family life is a basic right, part of the right to human dignity. This ruling is ludicrous and loses all grasp of reality in light of Israel's draconian policy. Five years ago an expanded panel of the High Court of Justice itself ruled - by a single vote - to extend the emergency order on family unification.
This policy is inhumane and creates many family tragedies. It discriminates between Jews and Arabs, and the explanation that it is necessary for security does not justify its sweeping nature, which harms so many people who only want to live in their own country with their spouses. It is a basic right, and the state must let them benefit from it.
The security argument can be applied to individuals, but not to such large groups of people, solely on their national affiliation. This use of the security excuse also ignores the hostility and bitterness sown by the policy among its many victims. The cabinet should thus reject the interior minister's request and shape a humane policy that also takes into consideration the needs of non-Jews.
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