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HaMoked to the High Court: cancel the complete freeze of family unification in the occupied territories, and allow foreign citizens married to Palestinians to settle in the occupied territories lawfully

For many years, Israel has conducted a policy restricting families where one spouse is a Palestinian resident of the occupied territories (OPT) and the other is a foreign national, from lawfully conducting family lives in the OPT. In the year 2000, following the outbreak of the second intifada, Israel froze the review of requests for family unification in the OPT entirely. Since then, excluding a single political gesture in late 2007, there has been no change to Israel's policy on the matter, and new requests are, as a rule, not received or reviewed by the military. As a result, thousands of spouses of residents of the OPT have become "illegal aliens" in their own homes, with the threat of deportation constantly looming over them.

On May 16, 2018 HaMoked submitted a request to the military to change its restrictive policy regarding family unification in the OPT, which severely harms the rights of Palestinians to family life. HaMoked noted that the military holds hundreds of requests for family unification that were transferred to it by the Palestinian Authority, which it has not processed at all. HaMoked emphasized that, excluding in the direst of humanitarian cases, the military refuses to receive any new family unification requests.

In a response from July 8, 2018 the military avoided responding to HaMoked's principled claims, and even stated it has the authority, "in accordance with political, security and other considerations," to approve or refuse requests, and there is no flaw in its restrictive policy on the matter.

As such, on November 1, 2018 HaMoked submitted a series of petitions to the High Court of Justice on behalf of Palestinian residents of the West Bank and their foreign spouses, demanding that the foreign spouses be permitted to legalize their status in the OPT through a family unification procedure. HaMoked claimed that the military's total refusal to review requests of foreign citizens for family unification is contrary to international and Israeli law, and to the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement, which has been incorporated into the internal legal system of the OPT. HaMoked further claimed that the military effectively rejects family unification requests based on a sweeping policy, and not on the facts of the individual cases brought before it, and as such does not appropriately balance relevant security needs and the right of residents of the OPT – protected persons under international humanitarian law – to family life. Finally, HaMoked emphasized that the military must properly document requests submitted to it in this area, as well as how they are handled. (02) 627 1698   (02) 627 6317

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