Court considers law on Palestinians married to Israelis

Petitioners claim 2003 law against family reunification is illegal.

high court justices 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
high court justices 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The High Court of Justice is scheduled Tuesday to hold a crucial hearing on challenges to a law barring many Palestinians married to Israelis from obtaining permanent residency.
On May 14, 2006, a panel of 11 High Court justices rejected six petitions declaring that the 2003 Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Provision) was illegal.
The temporary law, which was first passed in 2003 and has been periodically renewed ever since, imposed a sweeping ban on family reunification requests by Palestinians who married Israelis and sought to obtain permanent residency. The ban applied to men under the age of 35 and women under the age of 25.
The petitioners included Zahava Gal-On, at the time a Meretz Party MK, Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).
The petitioners charged that the law violated the Basic Law: Human Freedom and Liberty in that it prevented Israeli citizens from realizing their fundamental right to family life. They also charged it was racist because it discriminated against all Israeli Arabs virtually without exception.
Five High Court justices voted to accept the petitions, including then-Supreme Court President Aharon Barak, Dorit Beinisch and justices Salim Joubran, Esther Hayut and Ayala Procaccia.
Five justices voted against the petitioners. They included then-deputy Supreme Court President Mishael Cheshin, Eliezer Rivlin, Miriam Naor, Asher Grunis and acting Justice Yonatan Adiel.
The eleventh justice, Edmond Levy, wrote that the law was unconstitutional but that he would not vote to revoke it. On the other hand, he expected that the Knesset would not renew it. He said he doubted that “the law could persist and survive judicial review in the future.”
Nevertheless, the law remained on the books. Two months after the dramatic High Court ruling in 2006, the Knesset renewed the temporary legislation for another 18 months. It has been renewed subsequently and is still in force today.
Gal-On, Adalah and ACRI filed new petitions after the bill was renewed. They were joined by the Hamoked Center for the Defense of the Individual.
On Tuesday, the High Court is due to hold what is expected to be the final hearing on these petitions before a ruling is issued.
The current panel includes four justices who voted in favor of the previous petition – Beinisch, Procaccia, Joubran and Hayut – and three who opposed it; Rivlin, Grunis and Naor.
Three of the justices, Elyakim Rubinstein, Edna Arbel and HananMeltzer, did not sit on the original panel. The 11th justice is Levy.
On May 6, 2008, the court issued a show-cause order instructing the government to explain why the temporary law was necessary.
It held a hearing on the petitions on March 15, 2009, but did not makea ruling and agreed to hear a response from the right-wing Fence forLife movement. Meanwhile, three other right-wing groups, Shurat HadinIsrael Law Center, Im Tirzu and Religious Zionism Renewal, also askedthe court for permission to join the petition as respondents.
Former justice minister Daniel Friedmann tried to undermine thepetitions by proposing a law that would have prevented the High Courtfrom applying judicial review to legislation involving citizenshipissues. However, he did not manage to push it through the Knessetbefore the last election.
A group of right-wing MKs in the current Knesset have proposed a similar bill but the bill has not been debated yet.