HCJ demands family reunification data

State must back claim that it granted adequate concessions to mixed families.

arab man with cane298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
arab man with cane298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The High Court of Justice has ordered the state to provide statistical proof to back its claim that it granted adequate concessions to mixed Israeli Arab and Palestinian couples in the amended temporary family reunification law passed by the Knesset on July 27. In a decision handed down earlier in the week, the court ordered the state to provide data on how many Palestinian men and women married to Israelis and having official Israeli status were involved in terrorist attacks and how old each one was. The court gave the state five days to provide the data. Supreme Court President Aharon Barak handed down his decision two days after the state submitted a statement to the court explaining the changes included in the amendment. It said that from now on, the Interior Ministry will process requests for residency status filed by Palestinian men over the age of 35, and Palestinian women over the age of 25, who were married to Israeli citizens. More than four years ago, the Interior Ministry froze the family unification procedures, whereby Palestinians of any age married to Israelis could apply for Israeli resident status in a procedure which took at least five years. On July 31, 2003, the Knesset passed a temporary law to formalize the freeze. The law was due to expire after one year but was extended for another. Meanwhile, many groups and individuals, including the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Israeli Arab MKs, the Yahad-Meretz faction and the Arab Monitoring Committee petitioned the High Court of Justice, branding the temporary law racist. As the deadline for the first extension approached, the High Court warned the state that the law "raised constitutional problems" and urged it to "take a very hard look" at them. As a result, the government drafted a new version of the bill making it possible for Palestinian men over 35 years of age and Palestinian women over 25 years of age married to Israelis to apply for residency status. In its statement explaining the modification, Attorney Yochi Gnessin wrote that according to the Shin Bet, "statistics dealing with the profile of those involved in terrorism indicate that 90 percent of the men are aged 16 to 35, including 97 percent of the suicide bombers. The overwhelming majority of women involved in terrorism are aged 17 to 30, she added. Furthermore, 22 Palestinians who had received Israeli status and were involved in terrorist acts were aged 18 to 35. In its response, the court indicated that the figures provided by the state were insufficient for it to rule on the petitions and decide, even after the changes in the temporary law, whether the government's policy was legal or not. In July, Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin told the Knesset Interior Committee that 11 percent of the Palestinians involved in terrorist activity inside Israel had entered the country in the context of family reunification. Of 225 Israeli Arabs involved in terrorist activity, 25 were Palestinians with some sort of permit based on family reunification to be in Israel. Yoav Loeff, the spokesman for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, told The Jerusalem Post he was encouraged by the question put by the court to the state and the fact that it gave the state only five days to reply. He said this was an indication that the court might be close to ruling on the petitions.