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17.3.2019

The end of a protracted ordeal: following HaMoked’s Supreme Court appeal, the children of an East Jerusalem resident who relocated to Haifa finally receive residency status

An Israeli resident, originally from East Jerusalem, has been living in Haifa for years with his wife, originally a resident of the West Bank, and their two young children. The couple could not seek residency status for the wife, because of the discriminatory Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law, which denies family unification to spouses from the oPt. According to this law, a woman from the oPt under the age of 25 cannot even get a temporary status in Israel. Consequently, the woman is not listed as the man's wife in his identity card.

On this pretext, the Ministry of Interior persistently refused to register their daughter, born in 2015, as an Israeli resident. It even refused to recognize the man as her father, and needlessly applied the paternity-recognition procedure – contrary to the case law of the High Court of Justice (HCJ), whereby a declaration of paternity is sufficient. The Ministry also refused to register their son, born a year earlier, and kept hampering the registration because the man had relocated from East Jerusalem to Haifa. Thus the Ministry left the children stateless, denying them and their parents their legal rights, including state benefits.

The Ministry remained adamant in its refusal despite HaMoked’s efforts and ample proof of the father’s paternity and of the fact that the family lived together as a unit. HaMoked petitioned the Haifa District Court to instruct the Ministry of Interior to register the children as Israeli residents. But in April 2017, in an outrageous and obtuse judgment, the court rejected the petition, adopting the state’s inflexible position, whereby the father had failed to meet the threshold condition of the paternity-recognition procedure. Moreover, the court ruled that the father must undergo a paternity test – which under Israeli case law should only be required as a last resort.

On May 11, 2017, HaMoked appealed the judgment to the Supreme Court. In the appeal, HaMoked argued that the District Court had erred in leaving the Ministry of Interior’s decision in place. HaMoked again clarified, among other things, that applying the paternity-recognition procedure in the case was contrary to the principle of the child’s best interests, which is a basic value in matters concerning child registration. HaMoked added that the District Court blatantly ignored the harsh implications of the Entry into Israel Law for Palestinian residents of Israel married to Palestinians of the oPt. In this case, the Law prevents the woman from receiving any residency status or being registered as a spouse in her husband’s identity card. As a result, asserted HaMoked, the appellants’ basic right to maintain regular family life had been blatantly violated.

Following the suggestion of the Supreme Court justices in the hearing of March 12, 2018, the state agreed to summon the appellant to an interview in order to examine the existence of the family unit. After the man underwent two interviews and had to provide numerous additional documents, the state notified the court that “It has been decided that given the special circumstances of the case, the minors will be registered as the appellant’s children…”. Thus the appeal turned redundant and was deleted on December 30, 2018.

Three months later – and only following repeated demands by HaMoked – did the Ministry of Interior finally register the children, giving them permanent residency, the same status as their father.
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