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The Interior Minister’s advisory humanitarian committee in a rare and exceptional decision: a Palestinian woman married to an East Jerusalem resident who suffers from multiple sclerosis will receive temporary status in Israel

The Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order) approved by the Knesset, froze all family unification processes of East Jerusalem residents with their spouses from the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). Consequently, the procedure of family unification no longer ends with the grant of permanent status to the spouse from the OPT and is effectively endless. Under the Law, the presence in Israel of OPT residents who wish to live with their East Jerusalem spouses can be arrange only by permits of stay in Israel – which do not confer status or social security rights, not even national health insurance. Following the 2007 amendment to the Law, the Ministry of Interior formed a humanitarian committee that may advise the Minister of Interior to grant temporary status (A/5 visa) for “special humanitarian reasons”; this, in order to exempt from the Israeli status ban, OPT residents who suffer from serious conditions, or require Israeli status in order to care for immediate relatives suffering from such conditions. However, the committee exercises its power to grant temporary status very rarely, and this, mostly after the applicant has filed a petition to the court. It is even rarer for the committee to decide to grant temporary status to individuals who already received Israeli stay permits.

A Palestinian woman from the West Bank has lived in East Jerusalem pursuant to stay permits since late 2004, following the approval of her husband’s application for family unification with her. The couple had three children, all of whom registered as permanent Israeli residents. Earlier on, in 2000, the husband was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis – a chronic neurological disorder, which causes, among other things, loss of vision and muscle atrophy. The man’s condition deteriorated and he became confined to his home. For some time now, the man requires help in all daily functions, even the most basic. His wife is the one who constantly nurses him and stays by his side throughout most of the day and night.

Given the woman’s vital role in nursing her husband, raising the children and running the household, HaMoked applied to the humanitarian committee on February 9, 2014, in a request to grant her temporary status in Israel. HaMoked explained that without status, the woman was effectively unentitled to the rights to health and social security. If she lost her ability to function, she would be left without any safety net, and the entire family might be gravely harmed, as it would need to look after the woman’s needs and bear the full cost of her treatments. Furthermore, although the woman often needed to go to the National Insurance Institute (NII) to handle matters on behalf of her husband, the NII refused to allow her to enter its offices because she did not have an Israeli identity card. Finally, HaMoked noted that the current general situation placed the woman was under severe movement restrictions: with only stay permits, she could only travel from Israel to the West Bank and back by crossing checkpoints designated for holders of Palestinian ID cards; checkpoints where the waiting is literally intolerable. Consequently, the woman seldom visited her parents who live near Hebron, and the children were denied regular contact with their grandparents.

As no response arrived for an entire year, HaMoked petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ) to instruct the humanitarian committee to issue a decision in the case. HaMoked stressed that under the provisions of the Law, the committee should decide on applications placed before it within six months; the committee’s protracted delay in issuing a decision infringed on the woman’s right to family life and harmed the wellbeing of her small children, who were entirely dependent on her.

Prior to the scheduled hearing in the petition, the couple was summoned to a hearing by the Ministry of Interior, whereupon, on August 23, 2015, the Minister of Interior decided, based on the recommendation of the humanitarian committee, to grant the woman permanent residency in Israel. (02) 627 1698   (02) 627 6317

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