High Court judgement on granting status to Palestinians who have lived in Israel many years under family unification procedure: For now, there is no place to amend Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law, but it should be softened
During 2014, HaMoked filed with the High Court of Justice a series of petitions to require the State to grant an exception in the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (“temporary order”) so that Palestinians from the Occupied Territories who have been living in Israel for many years by virtue of a family unification procedure will receive, at least, temporary residency in Israel. These petitions argued that leaving this group of people with no status, although it has been proven year after year that their presence in Israel poses no risk, does not accord with the requirements of reasonableness and proportionality, and does not serve the security purpose which the state claims underlies the law. HaMoked also argued that temporary stay permits currently granted to residents of the Occupied Territories living in Israel with their Israeli family members do not grant them social rights and therefore impose hardships for a proper and normative family life.
There were two important developments following submission of these petitions. In early 2015, the Knesset established a joint Interior-Foreign Affairs committee tasked with examining relevant data regarding the Citizenship Law and recommending to the Knesset plenary whether or not to extend the law. Second, in April 2016, the Minister of the Interior announced that about 2,000 Palestinian spouses undergoing a family unification procedure would receive status in Israel. As of 27 September, 2017, 1,573 people in this group had their status upgraded.
In spite of these developments, HaMoked refused the Court’s proposal that it withdrew the petitions. HaMoked emphasized that the Minister’s decision does not provide a remedy to the growing population of people who filed requests for family unification after the cut-off date in the Minister’s decision. In addition, a unitary principle should be applied – i.e. the length of time in Israel – for all residents of the Occupied Territories living in Israel under family unification procedures. HaMoked also argued that despite establishment of the joint committee, the Citizenship Law was extended yet again in the same harmful format, contrary to the remarks of the Court that the passage of time required considering a fundamental change to the law to reduce the harm it caused.
On 18 October, 2017, the High Court deleted HaMoked’s petitions. In its judgement, the Court determined that even if the Minister’s decision grants relief only to a limited population, there is no disagreement that the circumstances at the time the petitions were submitted are no longer the same and therefore there is no place to continue discussing them. At the same time, the Court left open the possibility both for challenging the Minister’s decision and for filing constitutional challenges to the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law. Finally, two of the three Justices emphasized in their opinions that the temporary order must be softened.