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At the end of a hearing on petitions to grant Israeli status to Palestinians living in the country for many years in the framework of the family unification procedure: the court orders the state to announce if it intends to revise the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law

In July-October 2014, HaMoked filed 13 petitions to the High Court of Justice (HCJ) concerning Palestinians – spouses of East Jerusalem residents – who have been living in Israel for many years with just stay permits issued by the military. Year after year these individuals must undergo center-of-life examinations and security and criminal background checks, without an end in sight; this because of the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order), which prohibits the Minister of Interior from “upgrading” their status. Without civil status, even a temporary one, they do not receive any social security rights, are denied access to the country’s health services, and their lives lack stability and a sense of security regarding their future. In view of the ongoing violation of their rights, HaMoked demanded that an exemption be established in the Law to allow granting them – and others in their situation – status in Israel.

On June 8, 2015, the HCJ heard seven of HaMoked’s petitions and several other petitions submitted on the issue.

During the hearing, the state said that currently, there were some 11,000 Palestinians living in Israel in the framework of the family unification procedure; about 3,000 of them holding temporary status, and the rest with nothing but temporary stay permits. The state also noted that annually, several hundreds of people joined the group of stay-permit holders, including children with only one parent who was a permanent resident.

HaMoked argued that given the fact that many years had passed since the enactment – in a provisional “temporary order” format – of the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law, the harm caused to this group of some 8,000 people had long since become disproportionate and no longer served the security objective underlying – according to the state – the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law. Therefore, HaMoked requested that Palestinian spouses lawfully living in Israel for more than five years be considered for Israeli temporary status – affording stability, full social security rights, including national health insurance. HaMoked stressed that individuals with temporary status must still undergo annual security checks as a condition for renewing their status (so that the Law’s alleged security purpose would not be compromised).

The state argued that giving them status, even a temporary one, would significantly increase the threat to national security, as terrorist organizations might use Palestinians who received Israeli ID cards – entitling their holders to drive a car with an Israeli license plate – for the commission of terrorist acts. The state also argued that the petitioners were in fact asking the court to instruct the Law be reformulated to match their position, which was outside the court’s jurisdiction, especially as the court upheld the Law in its current format not long ago.

The court challenged the state’s position, saying that sometimes the passage of time necessitated judicial review on the question of a law’s constitutionality regarding a certain segment of the population. In this case – all those people left without civil status because of the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law, although it was annually proven that their presence in Israel posed no threat. Therefore, and as the Knesset was due to discuss the prolongation of the Law by June 30, 2015, the court instructed the state to submit an updating notice by August 8, 2015, with respect to possible changes in the Law. Thereupon, the court would determine “whether there is room to issue an order nisi, and if so which order nisi; and whether there is room to expand the panel or issue a judgment”. (02) 627 1698   (02) 627 6317

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