On Sunday, the Israeli High Court of Justice narrowly upheld a controversial law that effectively bars West Bank Palestinians from living with their spouses and children in Israel.
The Israeli online daily Haaretz reported that an expanded panel of 11 justices split 6-5 in rejecting petitions to overturn the law which was passed by the Knesset in 2002.
The law was strongly influenced by the current Intifada and the situation in the occupied territories; the conflict was at its height when the law was passed.
Haaretz added that the the case was seen as one of the most important questions the High Court of Justice has dealt with in recent years, especially after dozens of Palestinians married to Israelis filed petitions to annul an amendment to the Citizenship Law that prevents "family unifications".
The decision was observed as a clear message from the High Court stating the the State of Israel has “the right to prevent Palestinians living in the West Bank from living with their spouses and families in Israel”.
According to the newly passed law, only Palestinian women over the age of 25 and men over 35 are eligible to join their families in Israel, and eventually receive citizenship, Haaretz added.
The Amnesty International slammed the law and called for its repeal, several critics of the law described it as racist and discriminatory.
Israeli state prosecution voiced satisfaction at Sunday’s verdict, and claimed that the ruling was made “in order to protect Israel’s security during time of war”.
High Court Justice Mishael Cheshin said that the law “does not harm Israelis’ constitutional rights”, and claimed that if the law does to some extent cause such harm, it was "measured."
Cheshin along with justices Miryam Naor, Asher Grunes, Yonatan Adiel, Eliezer Rivlin and Edmund Levy rejected the petitions.
Despite voting with the majority, Levy stated that the law indeed harmed the constitutional rights of family life and equality in Israel to an unnecessary extent.
He added that the state will be given a period of nine months to formulate an alternative legislative arrangement.
Meanwhile, Chief Justice, Aharon Barak, voted against the ruling along justices Dorit Beinish, Ayala Proccacia, Salim Jobran, and Esther Hayut.
Barak added that the decision to uphold the law steps on the civil rights of citizens.
The appeal was originally filed in August 2003 by the Legal Center For Arab Minority Rights In Israel (Adalah), The Society Human Rights, Arab members of Knesset Dr. Azmi Bishara, Jamal Zahalka, Mohammad Baraka, and Abdul-Malik Dahamsha, and Israeli member of Knesset Roman Bronfman.
Spouses from Israel and the Palestinian territories were represented in the appeal which stressed that the Israeli family reunification law is “racist and affects the daily lives of the Palestinian residents in Israel and the occupied territories.
The appeal also emphasized that this law harms of principles of equality, human dignity and liberty.
The amendment formalized an Israeli cabinet decision of May 2002 that froze the graduated process for naturalizing Palestinians who marry Israelis.
It was considered as an emergency order in effect for one year, but it has been extended repeatedly.
Then Israeli Interior Minister Ophir Pines-Paz introduced some changes to the law in 2005; the changes were observed as a slight ease on the restrictions on family unifications.
Justice Cheshin said that “Israeli citizens who marry Palestinians should go live in Jenin” during a debate on the subject in February before the High Court.
He added that the Palestinian Government is a hostile entity and an enemy to Israel, and that it calls for the destruction of the State of Israel.