After more than 200 hours of deliberations, the Israeli Knesset approved the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order), 2022, by a 45-15 majority vote on 10 March 2021.
The Law bans the unification of Palestinian families, as it prohibits the Interior Minister from granting residency or citizenship status to Palestinians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip who are married to Palestinian citizens of Israel. It also bans unification between a citizen or resident of Israel with spouses from “enemy states”, including Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Iran.
In response, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel issued the following statement:
“Israel’s Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law is one of the most racist and discriminatory laws in the world. No other state bans its citizens from exercising their basic right to family life, based solely on their national or ethnic identity.
For 18 years, the Knesset has repeatedly renewed the ban, and the state has defended the legality of the measure before the Israeli Supreme Court using unsubstantiated and baseless security arguments.
This facade has finally been removed, as the Law’s current initiators have not, even for a moment, hidden their goal, which is to maintain a Jewish majority.
The legislators based the legitimacy of their actions on the 2018 Jewish Nation-State Law, which constitutionally enshrines Jewish supremacy over Palestinians.
We will challenge this Law before the Israeli Supreme Court, and the justices will now have to decide whether, when faced with the Law’s explicit language, they will continue to allow this racist Law to be protected under the eternal pretext of temporality.”
The Law adopted today by the Israeli Knesset incorporates provisions from an earlier version of the temporary order initially enacted in 2003 for a period of one year.
The Knesset has extended the preceding law 21 times over the last 18 years.
However, on 6 July 2021, the law expired after the Knesset failed to achieve the majority required to extend it.
Notably, the failure to extend the preceding law was not due to a lack of political will but rather competing political factions failing to reach a compromise. Since its expiration, four different bills have been introduced in the Knesset, and they were later consolidated into the current Law.
Unlike the past law, the new law includes a section that explicitly states that its purpose is to ensure a Jewish demographic majority. The section provides:
“The purpose of this law is to establish restrictions on citizenship and residence in Israel by citizens or residents of hostile countries or from the region, alongside irregular arrangements for residence licenses or permits to stay in Israel—all while taking into consideration the fact that Israel is a Jewish and democratic state, and in a manner that will ensure the safeguarding of vital interests for the state’s national security.”
The co-sponsors of Law confirmed the demographic goal of the legislation, and that the Law is intended to fight what they coined as attempts to “gradually achieve the right of return” of Palestinians. Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked has also repeated this goal.
The new Law also introduces some other items, such as a formal requirement of the Interior Minister to establish a committee to examine applications for reasons of domestic violence, and a maximum annual quota of permits for humanitarian reasons, based on the number of applications approved in 2018.
In subsequent years, the Interior Minister will be able to determine a maximum annual quota of licenses or permits, with the approval of the Government and the Knesset. The legislation also requires the Minister to report on the number of permits issued, as well the number of rejections of requests filed to it.
More info and background:
Current status of family unification requests:
Despite the law’s expiration in July 2021, Israel has not changed its racist policy preventing Palestinian family reunification. Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked ordered the ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority, which reviews family reunification requests, to continue implementing the [expired] law. Following a recent petition filed by HaMoked and other Israeli human rights organizations, the Israeli Supreme Court held on 11 January 2022 that the Minister of Interior “must act solely according to the existing law, and may no longer follow the [expired] Law or the regulations issued pursuant to it…”. And thus it became urgen for the government to pass new legislation,
Adalah’s legal action against the Law throughout the years:
Since the Law has been first enacted, Adalah has petitioned twice (2003, 2007) against the ban on Palestinian family unification to the Israeli Supreme Court.
Adalah has also opposed all of the renewals of the temporary order since it was enacted and urged Knesset members to reject the extension of the temporary order, to refrain from any arrangement that would not lead to its complete repeal, and/or to refuse to vote in favor of a permanent law banning Palestinian family unification.
Numerous UN human rights treaty bodies have urged Israel to facilitate family unification of all citizens and permanent residents, most recently, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in 2019; the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR) in 2019; the UN Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 2017; and to revoke the law, the UN Human Rights Committee, which monitors the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 2014, finding that the law violates Israel’s obligations under the treaty.