Following a series of petitions filed by HaMoked against the military's policy which prevents Palestinian residents of the Territories from conducting family life and living with their spouses and children in the Territories, Israel announced it is willing to examine 50,000 family unification applications as a political "gesture": HaMoked further demands Israel fulfill its obligation to routinely process family unification applications and to acknowledge spousal relationships as criteria for approving them, regardless of political gestures
For over eight years, Israel has been barring families where one of the spouses is a resident of the Palestinian Authority and the other a foreign national from lawfully leading family life in the Territories. The family unification process has undergone many changes since 1967: changes of criteria, imposition of procedural barriers by the military, lack of consistency in processing applications, applications remaining unanswered and frequent changes of procedures. With the outbreak of the second intifada at the end of September 2000, Israel froze all handling of visitors' permits and family unification. Israel refused to accept new applications, those already transferred to the military were not processed and those already approved were prevented from being actualized. The military commander refused to accept applications from the Palestinian Authority or open a direct channel (bypassing the Palestinian Authority) for receiving applications from residents. The situation deteriorated further in 2006 following the elections for the Palestinian Authority and the rise to power of Hamas. Israel announced it was severing all ties with the Palestinian Authority, including communications regarding the population registry.Over the course of 2007, HaMoked filed a series of HCJ aimed at the cancellation of Israel's policy of the past few years – the freeze on handling family unification in the Territories. The petitions were joined by eight other human rights organizations.
In the petitions, HaMoked repeatedly claims that the military's refusal to process the applications infringes on the constitutional right of residents of the Territories to family life. This right was acknowledged as a basic right by eight of the eleven justices in the panel which presided in the Adalah case. That petition challenged the legal provision forbidding family unification inside Israel. The judgment established that a person enjoys the right to family life and, where there is a foreign spouse, to establish the family unit in the country of residency. It was further established that a sweeping infringement of rights, which is not carried out on the basis of individual examination of each case, is ostensibly suspect as disproportionate. It must be noted that unlike the State's position in the Adalah case, in this matter, no security claims are raised: the people whom Israel refuses to allow to live with their spouses are people who might have been eligible for citizenship in Israel (even under current restrictive provisions), if their spouses were Israeli citizens rather than residents of the Territories.
In 2007, the State announced it had decided to examine 12,000 family unification applications as a "political gesture." It later announced the quota would be increased and, ahead of the hearing which was held on 5 October 2008, it announced the quota would be 50,000 applications. The State's notice served prior to the hearing indicated that the Palestinian Authority has so far forwarded 32,000 family unification applications to the Israeli side, of which 23,000 were approved. The remaining applications had not been rejected but rather have yet to be examined. This leaves 18,000 applications that may still be submitted. In the hearing, HaMoked stressed the importance of the right to family unification and that this right was not a matter of political gestures – the occupying power is obligated to protect the routine lives and rights of the protected population. Israel cannot hold the Palestinian hostage for the purposes of political moves. As an administrative authority in the Territories and as the bearer of responsibility for normal life therein, the Respondent is not entitled to refrain from handling the matter of split-status families and must see to arranging their status in the spirit of their right to their family life.
All individual cases heard in HaMoked's petitions were resolved through the gestures. Following the State's notice regarding the number of applications it would be willing to examine, the Court refused to discuss the issues of principle. The petitioning organizations may file further petitions against making the policy conditional on quotas and political gestures, but the Court refused to undertake to hear a petition on matters of principle without individual cases. The petitions were deleted, with the parties maintaining their claims, and the Petitioners will consider whether to petition against the policy once again. In light of the judgment, HaMoked will file a request for a ruling to have legal expenses paid in each of the dozens of petitions it filed and that were resolved.
To view the judgment dated 5 October 2008 (in Hebrew)
To view the notice ahead of the hearing on behalf of the Respondents dated 2 October 2008 (in Hebrew)
To view HaMoked's response to the Respondents' response dated 3 March 2008 (in Hebrew)
To view the supplementary response on behalf of the Respondents dated 29 January 2008 (in Hebrew)
To view HaMoked's response to the response on behalf of the Respondents dated 20 September 2007
To view the response on behalf of the Respondents dated 18 September 2007
To view the Court's decision on adding the other human rights organizations as petitioners dated 6 August 2007 (in Hebrew)
To view one of the petitions dated 11 April 2007
To view HaMoked and B'Tselem's report Perpetual Limbo