Knesset members on the Left slammed the High Court of Justice ruling to uphold
the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law, saying on Thursday that it is
undemocratic, while those on the Right lauded the court for defending
The High Court on Wednesday night rejected petitions by MK Zehava
Gal-On (Meretz), the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Hamoked Center for
the Defense of the Individual and the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority
Rights in Israel against the Citizenship Law, by a majority of six justices to
'We need citizenship law because of Palestinian terror'
Law and disorder
First passed as a temporary order in 2003, the legislation has been
extended several times, and prevents residents of the West Bank and the Gaza
Strip married to Israelis from receiving Israeli citizenship and residency
In 2006, the High Court rejected a previous petition asking to
annul the law, also by a ruling of six to five.
The latest petition
argued that the law was unconstitutional because it violated the Basic Law:
Human Dignity and Liberty by denying citizens the right to family life, solely
on the basis of their spouse’s ethnicity. In addition, Hamoked claimed that the
law harmed children born to Palestinian-Israeli couples by denying them any
legal status in Israel.
In its response to the High Court, the state
argued that Palestinian terrorist organizations have not let up on their
intentions to perpetrate mass attacks in Israel and therefore the court should
not annul the legislation.
At the heart of the petition was the legal
question of how far citizens’ rights to family life extend, and whether the
Citizenship Law violated Israel’s Basic Laws.
Though Israel does not have
a formal constitution, its Basic Laws are constitutional in nature, and the High
Court examined whether the Citizenship Law was permissible, including under the
so-called “limitations clause,” which prevents the Knesset from legislating new
laws that infringe the Basic Laws – except where those laws are deemed
“befitting the values of the State of Israel, enacted for a proper purpose and
to an extent no greater than required.”
The six justices supporting the
majority ruling – Supreme Court Vice President Eliezer Rivlin, Asher Dan Grunis,
Miriam Naor, Elyakim Rubinstein, Hanan Melcer and Neal Handel – said even if
there were a violation to constitutional rights, including the right to
equality, this violation would be acceptable under the limitations
Rivlin said that any injury resulting from the law was for a
“proper purpose and not excessive.”
The majority justices added that they
recognized the constitutional right to family life.
However, they said
that the scope of that right did not have to extend to its being realized in
In contrast, the five justices making the minority ruling –
Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, Edmund Levi, Edna Arbel, Salim Joubran
and Esther Hayut – said that an Israeli spouse’s constitutional right to a
family life included the right to enjoy that life in Israel.
limitations clause did not apply, they added, because the Citizenship Law
restrictions were applicable almost exclusively to Israeli
Coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) congratulated the High
Court. The majority of the justices defended sanity and “stood behind the
statement that human rights do not have to be a national suicide mission,” he
At the same time, Elkin said he found it disturbing that nearly
half of the justices thought it was reasonable to open Israel’s gates to
thousands of Palestinians, and allow them to enact their own “right of return”
via fictitious marriages.
Both Elkin and Knesset Constitution, Law and
Justice Committee Chairman David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu) called the Left, who
criticized the High Court’s decision, hypocritical.
Those who attacked
bills sponsored by the Likud, Israel Beiteinu and National Union to change the
judicial selection process – saying they were defending the purity and
superiority of the court – were now angry at the court for making a decision
that did not suit them politically, Elkin and Rotem said.
that the court’s defenders find it correct to attack its justices, just because
they do not like a decision that defends the State of Israel,” Rotem
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin also defended the High Court’s
ruling, saying that Israel did not forbid its citizens to marry Palestinians.
However, they would have to move to “the other side,” he said.
to Rivlin, these laws allow the country to defend itself.
chairman Ya’acov Katz dubbed the ruling “an overt miracle” and said the law
would protect Israel from “the threat of being flooded with two-to-three million
Arabs from outside its borders.”
Gal-On called the legislation a “dark
stain on our law books,” saying the court’s decision violated Israeli Arabs’
Justices censored themselves, because the High Court had become
weaker in fighting racism, the Meretz MK added.
Arab lawmakers also
criticized the decision, with MK Ghaleb Majadle (Labor) saying it “does not add
honor” to Israeli democracy.
MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad) said the law “spits
in the Palestinians’ faces” and that the court missed an opportunity to fix
years of injustice against “Palestinian citizens of Israel.”
democratic values were continually crumbling, and the court was reinforcing
militaristic and racist public discourse, she said.
The petitioners also
slammed the ruling.
“The High Court has approved a law, the likes of
which does not exist in any other democratic country in the world,” attorney
Sawsan Zahar of Adalah said. “The ruling shows the extent to which Arab
citizens’ civil rights have deteriorated into an extremely dangerous and
Attorneys Dan Yakir and Oded Feller of ACRI
also accused the court of failing to protect minority rights, and said the
ruling was a “black day for human rights and for the Supreme Court.”
the second time, the majority has approved this racist law, which for a decade
has severed the fabric of those families whose only sin is that Palestinian
blood runs through their veins,” Yakir said.
Four organizations – the
Israel Law Center (Shurat Hadin), Im Tirtzu – Rebuilding a Zionist Society,
Fence For Life Public Movement for the Security Fence, and the Revitalized
Zionist Movement – added themselves as respondents to the petitions in support
of the law.
Israel Law Center chairwoman attorney Nitsana Darshan-
Leitner welcomed the ruling, saying that “human rights should not be a recipe
for Israel’s self-destruction,” and that “family reunification in Israel should
not come at the price of terror attacks.
“In its wisdom, the court
recognized the security threat that would be created if thousands of
Palestinians were allowed entry into Israel and permitted permanent residence as
a result of their marriage to Israeli citizens,” she
Darshan-Leitner told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that the
Citizenship Law was enacted in 2003, at the height of the second intifada, when
several Palestinians who had been granted permanent residency on the grounds of
family reunification later took part in terrorist attacks in Israel.
country in the word allows thousands of enemy nationals to enter its territory,”
“The court realized that even if by refusing to
annul the law, they will cause damage to families who cannot unite and live
together in Israel.
Nevertheless, Israel must not embark on a process of
selfdestruction for their sake.”
Ronen Shoval, Im Tirtzu’s chairman, also
praised the High Court’s ruling, saying the law would “prevent hundreds of
thousands of Palestinians from flooding into Israel.”