high court 298.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The High Court of Justice put heavy pressure on the state earlier this week to reconsider its policy on granting residential status to the foreign spouses of West Bank Palestinians.
During a hearing on Monday, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch urged the state's representative to get the government's consent to consider the requests of almost 50 Palestinian families who have petitioned the High Court against its refusal to do so.
She decided to give the state 60 days to consider the matter and added that it could determine its own criteria for deciding which requests to accept.
The hearing focused on four of the families whose requests have been refused. All of the cases involve Palestinians who married foreigners abroad and brought them home to live in the West Bank.
According to the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority may only register the foreign spouse of a West Bank resident if Israel agrees to it.
Originally, Palestinian couples could apply to the PA for the spouse's residential status, and the PA would then forward the application to Israel for consideration.
However, after the second intifada broke out at the end of 2000, Israel cut ties with the PA and refused to accept any more applications.
The situation deteriorated even further after Hamas won the elections last year, but has improved since the split between Hamas and Fatah in June.
Nevertheless, government policy has not changed in the past three months, and the state's representative refused to promise at the hearing that the government would change its mind over the next 60 days.
The state representative said the government was empowered to make political and diplomatic policy without the intervention of the court. It had decided to halt the residential status procedure as a result of the intifada; having done so, it was still bound by the Oslo Accords not to accept applications directly from Palestinian families.
She added that one of the government's concerns was that the thousands of families who had not yet petitioned the court would apply for residential status if the government granted it to the dozens of families who had.
But Beinisch said that for the time being, the court was only considering the four petitions before it and the 43 other ones that had been filed.
The hearing will resume after the state responds to the court's request and the petitioners reply to the state's response.