Law Denying Family Unification to Israelis and Palestinians Extended

The Knesset is today expected to extend and widen the controversial Citizenship Law, which denies family unification to Israelis and Palestinians.

The law, which was to have expired next month, will be extended to July 2008 and apply to citizens of the four "enemy states" - Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran - as well as to those of the Palestinian Authority.

The law provides for the establishment of a committee to consider exceptions on a humanitarian basis. However, as the Shin Bet, IDF and Population Registrar will have a majority in the committee, not many exceptions are expected to be approved.

The Citizenship Law denies family unification to Palestinian men aged 18-35 and women 18-25.

The Knesset passed an amendment to the law in December, ostensibly to modify it in keeping with the criticism expressed by the High Court of Justice. But human rights organizations said the amended law was worse yet.

The amendment wished to extend the denial of family unification, which until now applied to people who have an immediate family member suspected of involvement in hostile activity, to people whose brother-in-law or nephew are suspected of such activity.

The current temporary Citizenship Law is set to expire April 16. Interior Ministry Roni Bar-On advised the Knesset's Internal Affairs and Environment Committee chairman MK Ophir Pines-Paz that unless he passed the amended law in second and third readings by the end of the Knesset's winter session today, the cabinet would extend the existing law.

Pines-Paz hastened to debate the new proposal, intending to introduce humanitarian improvements.

The committee stipulated that the committee to discuss humanitarian exceptions would have two public representatives, canceled the clause enabling denial of family unification to people whose brother-in-law or nephew are suspected of hostile activity and restricted the law's validity to July 31, 2008 (not to the end of 2008, as planned).

Pines-Paz himself voted against the law, claiming it was discriminatory and unconstitutional.

The head of the Shin Bet's counter-terrorism division told the committee that the terror groups instruct Palestinians in the territories to apply for family unification, then recruit them.

Some 40 percent of Israeli Arabs who were involved in suicide attacks in 2006 were naturalized, he said.