ACRI slams family reunification findings

Committee reccomended restrictions for Arabs married to Israelis.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel has blasted the findings of a committee appointed by the government to propose a comprehensive immigration policy because it recommended restricting family reunification in Israel for Palestinians and other Arabs married to Israelis. "ACRI takes a very grave view of the committee's recommendations regarding the restrictions on the possibilities for granting official status for the spouses of Israeli citizens and residents," the organization said in a written statement. "Israel must guarantee that the non-Israeli spouse will be granted status as long as he or she proves that the relationship is genuine and that Israel is the center of his or her life." The question of government policy towards family reunification in Israel for Palestinians who marry Israelis is currently the subject of several petitions in the High Court of Justice. In 2002, the government froze the procedures for enabling a Palestinian married to an Israeli to obtain official status in Israel. Last year, the Knesset passed a provisional law lifting the freeze but prohibiting Palestinian men under 36 years of age and Palestinian women under 26 years of age from applying for family reunification. During the debates on the exact terms of the law, the government appointed a public committee headed by former minister and MK Amnon Rubinstein to examine the entire issue of non-Jewish immigration to Israel, including immigration by Palestinians, citizens of other Arab countries, and foreign workers. In an interim report submitted to the government earlier this week, the committee wrote that the country's immigration policy should be based on the following principles: loyalty to the country, restrictions on family reunification in times of emergency, minimum age, minimum income, quotas, and refusal to accept polygamy. It recommended that anyone seeking to immigrate to Israel should pledge loyalty to the state at the time of his application rather than at the end of the naturalization procedure. The committee also wrote that in time of war, the loyalty issue was particularly problematic regarding would-be immigrants from dangerous countries and regions, from enemy countries and from regions of conflict and areas of fighting. It defined the first as one in which there was systematic and government-sanctioned incitement in educational institutions and the media against Israel. In such cases, the would-be immigrant must prove beyond taking the loyalty oath that there is no reason to doubt his loyalty. The second category includes countries such as Iran and Syria. The committee advised the government to establish annual quotas for the number of people from such countries who could become citizens or residents. As for the third category, it empowered the government to prohibit all family reunification. It also wrote that any non-Jewish immigrant or his or her Israeli spouse must earn at least 20 percent more than the minimum wage for the two years before they apply for family reunification. All non-Israeli men wishing to live with their Israeli wives in Israel must be at least 23 years old, while women married to Israeli men must be at least 21.