Adalah to Supreme Court: Freeze Implementation of Ban on Family Unification Law and Issue Urgent Decision on Petition Challenging its Constitutionality

On 31 July 2005, Adalah filed a motion to the Supreme Court of Israel demanding an order to suspend the implementation of the Nationality and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order) – 2003 (hereafter: “the Law”), and that the Court rule on the petition challenging the constitutionality of the Law submitted by Adalah in August 2003. Amendments to the Law were passed by a majority vote of 59-12 in the Knesset on 27 July 2005, and the validity of the law was extended until 31 March 2006.

The Law, originally enacted in 2003 and renewed in 2004 and 2005, prohibits the granting of any residency or citizenship status in Israel to Palestinians from the 1967 Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs) married to Israeli citizens. The Law therefore flagrantly discriminates against Palestinian citizens of Israel – the overwhelming majority of Israeli citizens who marry Palestinians from the OPTs – and against Palestinians from the OPTs on the basis of nationality and ethnic belonging, and is disproportionate to the alleged security concerns cited to justify its enactment.

The newly-extended law contains new amendments which allow family unification between residents of the OPTs and citizens of Israel in very limited circumstances. The new amendments include age and gender-related stipulations which impose a sweeping ban on applications from all Palestinian men under 35 years of age, and all Palestinian women under 25 years of age. Further, while individuals who do meet these criteria can now apply for a permit to stay in Israel, they are only eligible for a temporary permit at most, and cannot qualify for work permits, social benefits, etc. A further amendment provides that no status will be granted to Palestinians who are related to individuals whom security officials suggest might constitute a threat to the state of Israel.

In the motion, Adalah Attorneys Orna Kohn and Hassan Jabareen argued that none of the new amendments addresses the law's severe violations of constitutionally-protected rights, including the rights to family life, human dignity, equality, liberty, and privacy, which are enshrined in Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty and protected by international law. On the contrary, the amendments inflict further violations of constitutional rights. The age and gender-related stipulations, Adalah argued, were arbitrarily decided upon and not supported by any factual evidence.

Regarding the security-related amendment, Adalah argued that, under such circumstances, the most basic of human rights could be revoked purely on the basis of family relations, over which individuals have no control. Furthermore, the presumptuous conclusion involved in this amendment cannot be challenged and would hold even where no information exists linking an applicant to any alleged security threat posed by a relative, and even where an applicant has no personal contact with such a relative.

In the motion, Adalah emphasized that the Supreme Court refused prior motions filed by Adalah to freeze the implementation of the Law and issue an urgent decision on the petition on each occasion that the Law was extended. The Court based its rejections of the previous motions on the argument that the Law was going to be amended within a short period of time, and therefore that its decision should be withheld pending the new legal reality which would be created by the amended law. Now, however, Adalah argued, because the amendments have been enacted, and since they do not alter the unconstitutional purpose of the Law, nor its main content, the Court should deliver a final ruling on the petition. The fact that the law was enacted over two years ago, and that the petition has been pending before the Court ever since, leaving thousands of families affected by the Law without a legal remedy, adds to the urgency of the delivery of a final ruling, Adalah argued.

H.C. 7052/03, Adalah, et. al. v. Minister of Interior, et. al. (case pending) H.C. 4608/02, Abu Assad, et. al. v. The Prime Minister of Israel, et. al. (case pending)

For more information,see Adalah's Special Report on Family Unification

  The Motion (H)