Supreme Court Orders State to Respond to Adalah's Petition Challenging the Legality of the Government's Decision to Prevent Family Unification for Non-Citizen Palestinian Spouses of Israeli Citizens


On 31 May 2002, the Supreme Court ordered the State to respond to a motion for a temporary injunction and a petition filed by Adalah on 30 May 2002 seeking to urgently freeze the Israeli government's discriminatory decision to prevent family unification for Palestinian spouses of Israeli citizens seeking residency or citizenship status. Adalah Staff Attorney Orna Kohn filed the petition on behalf of 57 individuals, who are members of 14 families that include a spouse of Palestinian origin without full citizenship status, against the Prime Minister, the Minister of the Interior, and the Director of the Population Bureau. The Supreme Court ordered the respondents to reply to the motion for a temporary injunction within seven days and to the petition within 21 days. 

On 12 May 2002, the Israeli government, by a unanimous decision of the cabinet, voted to enact a freeze on all applications to the Family Unification Department in the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) regarding the status of any spouse of an Israeli citizen who is "Palestinian, a resident of the Palestinian Authority or Palestinian by origin." The decision further stipulated that the freeze would continue until the MOI enacts a new procedure for family unification with more restrictive criteria for citizenship for non-citizen Palestinian spouses of Israeli citizens. In the interim period: 

  • The MOI will not accept any new applications for residency or citizenship status from spouses of Israeli citizens who are residents of the Palestinian Authority or Palestinian by origin.
  • The MOI will not approve pending applications for residency or citizenship status from spouses of Israeli citizens who are residents of the Palestinian Authority or Palestinian by origin and the Palestinian spouse will be deported.
  • In situations in which, prior to the government decision, an application was approved and the Palestinian spouse was granted a visa or temporary residency status, "their status will not be advanced (e.g., to permanent residency or citizenship status) until a new procedure is established."
In the petition, Adalah argued that the government's decision strongly discriminates against the petitioners. It harms their most fundamental right to marry and found a family with the spouse of their choice, and violates their right to live as a family with their children, common to all human beings. The government's decision also violates the petitioners' rights to dignity, equality and privacy. Further, Adalah argued that the government had no authority to make such a decision, which contradicts the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty (1992), the Citizenship Law (1952), and international human rights law. 

Adalah emphasized that in practice, the decision primarily affects Palestinian citizens of Israel, who are most likely to have non-citizen Palestinian spouses. The general policy for residency and citizenship status for all other non-citizen spouses of Israeli citizens remains unhindered.