The Order Expired, but Israel Still Refuses to Process Palestinian Requests for Family Unification

Israel's Interior Ministry refuses to process requests for family unification of Palestinians married to Israeli citizens – although the temporary ban on such family unification expired over two weeks ago.

Haaretz has learned that Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked ordered the ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority, which handles requests of this type, not to discuss them as long as the ministry has not formulated a policy on the subject, after the amendment to the Citizenship and Entry Into Israel Law, which bans such unification, failed to pass in the Knesset.

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The temporary order expired on July 6, after the government coalition was unable to achieve the majority required for extending it. The temporary order was passed as an emergency amendment to the Citizenship Law during the second intifada in 2003, and since then it has been extended every year. The government claims that the amendment was passed for security reasons, due to the involvement in terrorism of Palestinian residents of the territories who received a permit to live in Israel for family unification.

The amendment imposed two main restrictions on family unification between Palestinians and Israelis: It did not allow Palestinians to receive the status of citizen, but at most to receive a residence permit in Israel (also called a “family unification permit”), which is equivalent to a work permit and is renewed every year or two. Nor did it allow submission of a request for family unification before the age of 35 for Palestinian men or 25 for Palestinian women.

As long as the temporary order was in force, every request submitted to the Interior Ministry was automatically rejected, by dint of the law, unless the interior minister decided otherwise. After the validity of the temporary order expired, the situation was supposed to be reversed – every request was supposed to be examined by the Shin Bet security service, and if there was no security reason for denying it, it would be automatically approved unless the interior minister objected.

With the expiration of the temporary order, Palestinian families wanted to submit requests for unification – both new requests for Palestinians under 35 years of age, and requests for an upgrade from a family unification permit to citizenship. But Haaretz has learned that Palestinians’ requests to the Population and Immigration Authority after the expiration of the temporary order have not been answered, or the reply has been: “At this stage we are unable to make new appointments, until the receipt of further instructions.”

After the refusal by the Population and Immigration Authority to handle Palestinians’ requests, several of them turned to the authority recently in a warning letter before initiating legal proceedings. In the letter they write that if their requests are not handled, they intend to turn to the courts.