16 July 2003

Supreme Court to Hear Family Unification Cases Tomorrow

Tomorrow, Thursday 17 July 2003 at 11:30 a.m., the Supreme Court of Israel will hold hearings on petitions filed by Adalah on behalf of 14 families of Palestinian citizens of Israel and their Palestinian spouses from the Occupied Territories. In these cases, the petitioners' challenge the legality of a government decision that prohibits family unification or the granting of status in Israel to Palestinians who are married to Israeli citizens. The three presiding justices will be Justice Eliyahu Matza, Justice Esther Hayut, and Justice Miriam Naor. Adalah Attorney Orna Kohn will represent the petitioners before the Supreme Court. On 12 May 2002, the Israeli government, by a unanimous decision of the cabinet, voted to freeze all requests for family unification submitted to the Ministry of Interior in which the spouse is a “Palestinian, a resident of the Palestinian Authority and/or of Palestinian origin.” In the petition, Adalah argued that the government's decision is unconstitutional, as it constitutes gross discrimination against the petitioners, violating their rights to a family life with the spouse of their choice and with their minor children. Further, Adalah argued that the government acted without authority, and that its decision, which discriminates on the basis of nationality, contradicts the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty (1992), the Nationality Law (1952), as well as international human rights law. The petition highlights that the government's decision severely harms Palestinian citizens of Israel, as overwhelmingly it is they who marry Palestinians from the Occupied Territories. Other foreign spouses of Israeli citizens are not affected by the government's decision; previous Ministry of Interior procedures for the granting of citizenship will apply to them, and thus, they retain the right to obtain citizenship in Israel. In July 2002, the Supreme Court issued an order nisi (an order to show cause) instructing the State Attorney to respond to the petition within 120 days. In addition, the Supreme Court issued temporary orders preventing the deportation of the Palestinian spouses married to Palestinian citizens of Israel. In its response to the petition, the state argued that a proposed government bill has been prepared to amend the Nationality Law (1952) and the Entry into Israel Law (1952). The state contends that this bill, which was introduced in the Knesset on 4 June 2003, effectively negates the need for a Supreme Court hearing on the petitions. This bill entitled “Proposed Nationality and Entry into Israel (Temporary Order) Law – 2003,” passed first reading on 18 June 2003, and the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee held hearings on it earlier this week. In addition, the state argued that the government's decision was necessary and justified. According to the state, since the beginning of the Intifada, Palestinians who received status in Israel through family unification have increasingly been involved in terror activities. In its response, the state details six such cases.

It is Adalah's position that as long as the legislative process has not been completed, the government's decision is still in effect. Further, Adalah argues that the state's security arguments lack a factual basis. With this argument, the state sets forth sweeping generalizations, ignoring the thousands of requests for citizenship and/or residency status made by Palestinians from the Occupied Territories, who have individually undergone and passed extensive security checks. Moreover, Adalah argues that the actual purpose of the government's decision is to prevent the granting of official status in Israel to Palestinians for racist and discriminatory reasons. Former Minister of Interior, Eli Yishai, has publicly stated in the past that he believes that there is a pressing need to find ways to limit the number of non-Jews who receive Israeli citizenship, among them Arabs, whose numbers have increased dramatically in recent years and “threaten the Jewish character of the State of Israel.” Thus, Adalah asks the Supreme Court to rule that the decision is illegal and that the general naturalization process for spouses of Israeli citizens be reinstated for Palestinians.

The petition is available on Adalah's website in Hebrew and in English at:

Citation - H.C. 4608/02, Abu Assad, et. al. v. The Prime Minister of Israel, et. al.

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