Adalah to Israeli Government Ministers, AG: Proposed Amendments and Extension to Ban on Family Unification Law Do Not Remedy its Constitutional Violations, But Establish Even More Stringent Provisions

On 9 May 2005, Adalah sent an urgent letter to all Israeli government ministers and to the Attorney General, requesting that the ministers refrain from submitting a proposed bill to extend and amend the Nationality and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order) – 2003 (the Law) for Knesset approval. The Law 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 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.

On 8 May 2005, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a statutory memorandum (proposed draft bill) to extend the validity of the Law with amendments. The amendments would allow family unification between residents of the OPTs and citizens of Israel in very limited circumstances. In the letter, Adalah Attorney Orna Kohn argued that none of the proposed 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 proposed amendments would inflict further violations of constitutional rights.

The proposed 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. These stipulations, Adalah argued, were arbitrarily decided upon, unconstitutional and not supported by any factual evidence. In addition, Adalah contended that a proposed amendment to exempt children of 16-years-old and under from the ban on family unification does not provide a remedy to most of the children who are victims of this Law. Moreover, the decision not to include children between the ages of 16 and 18 in this group, whether resident or not, contravenes both Israeli and international law.

A further proposed amendment provides that status will not be granted to Palestinian spouses and parents of citizens of Israel who are related to individuals whom security officials suggest might constitute a threat to the state of Israel. 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 often have no control. Furthermore, this presumptuous conclusion 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.

The Law was due to expire on 31 May 2005, 22 months after its original enactment, and over three years since the processing of family unification was frozen for Palestinian spouses of Israeli citizens. Throughout this time, thousands of families of Arab citizens married to Palestinian residents of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip have been gravely harmed by the Law. In most cases, the persons involved are Israeli citizens who filed, prior to the enactment of the Law, a request to grant status to their spouse. Their requests were examined and approved, but the Law prevented the upgrading of the temporary status in Israel that had been granted to the spouse. This prohibition has forced the families to live under the constant fear of separation. In many other cases, in which the spouses had not yet received status in Israel, the Law prohibited the granting of any status in Israel, compelling the spouses to live apart, and tearing children away from their parents.

Adalah's petitions against the constitutionality of the law and against the previous cabinet's decision to freeze the processing of family unification applications are still pending. The Supreme Court has refrained from making decisions on these cases since November 2003, pending parliamentary decisions on the issue.

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 Letter (H)