Haaretz Editorial

Emergency Order Forever

Israel's choice to extend the emergency order denying the unification of citizens with spouses from enemy states strengthens the argument that Israel is a discriminatory apartheid state.

You have to be a former Shin Bet head to say Israel is putting its future at risk by not making a real effort to integrate its Arab citizens, nor advancing their status and solidarity with the state.

When a current Shin Bet chief is asked for his opinion, the easy default option is to say that permitting Israeli Arabs to raise a family with a spouse from the West Bank or Gaza Strip potentially poses a high risk to the country's security and its people's safety.

Thus, with the backing of the Shin Bet's opinion, the Knesset extended on Tuesday the emergency order denying residency in Israel to male spouses under 35 and female spouses under 25 who hail from the West Bank, Gaza or enemy states. In other words, the ban applies to Arabs from outside Israel in their marriageable prime. The emergency order from 2003 has now entered its 11th year.

On the face of it, the order also applies to Jews who want to raise a family with Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza. But there are hardly any such cases. In contrast, the natural reserve of partners for Israeli Arabs is among their people in the West Bank and Gaza. Hence, the order clearly infringes on Israeli Arabs' right to set up a family with their chosen partner and live in Israel.

Preventing a citizen from living in his country with his or her chosen spouse is a severe infringement of a basic civil right, whose protection is one of the reasons for maintaining a democracy. An order directed exclusively against the Arabs strengthens the argument that Israel is a discriminatory apartheid state.

The Shin Bet's job is to enable Israelis to live in safety in an environment ensuring their civil rights. The way to achieve this cannot be through sweeping discrimination against Palestinian citizens. Rather, it should be achieved by vetting each candidate for family unification individually, as the security service knows how to do.

The Shin Bet gave the cabinet an opinion that appeased the politicians, whose motives are demographic, and harmed Israel's security by entrenching the inequality between Jews and Arabs.

Labor MKs who supported the emergency order - Omer Bar-Lev, Hilik Bar, Moshe Mizrahi, Erel Margalit, Miki Rosenthal, Nachman Shai and Itzik Shmuli - continue the disgraceful tradition of supporting nationalist, discriminatory laws. Such support liquidated the Kadima Party. Such votes will not lead Labor to power, except perhaps as a spear-carrier.