Sunday, April 14, 2013

Israel extends Citizens Law that puts severe restrictions on Palestinians' right to live together with spouses from abroad

Tjhe Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu decided unanimously on Sunday to extend the Citizenship Law restricting the "family reunification" of Israeli citizens with foreign partners for an additional year. The law denies entry or living permits to partners who are considered a security threat, among them Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza, and citizens of 'enemy countries'.
The law affects mainly Israeli Arab citizens and their families from the West Bank, East-Jerusalem and Gaza. Is is estimated that at least a 100.000 persons are affected. 
The proposal to extend the law was submitted by Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar, and was formulated based on an opinion of the internal security service Shin Bet regarding the risks concerning partners from the Gaza Strip.
Israel generally grants citizenship to spouses of Israelis in a gradual process. A 2002 temporary order excluded Palestinian spouses from these processes and barred them from becoming Israeli citizens.The law was extended several times since then and in 2008 the geographic jurisdiction of the law was expanded, making it applicable to spouses from Iran, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq as well as other areas on which the government was free to decide.
The organization Adalah for minority rights in Israel; and the Association for Civil Rights in  Israel petitioned the High Court, but this ruled in a 6-5 decision on 12 January 2012, that it is 'the constitutional right of couples to live together, but that that this does not necessarily require that they make their home in Israel'. The majority ruled that even if the law did harm constitutional rights such as the right to equality, the infringement was proportional and not in conflict with Israel's Basic Laws, the set of legislation with constitutional standing. 
The new extension of the law was sharply criticized by Zahava Gal-On, the leader of the leftist Meretz Party. She said that the decision placed "draconian restrictions on Israeli Arab citizens' right to marry," and called the designation of all Palestinians as a security threat "racist" and discriminatory.

Palestinian official Saeb Erekat called the law "racist" and an attempt to "distort the Palestinian social fabric and force the displacement of Palestinian families." He called on the international community to “seriously examine the pattern of Israeli policies contributing to a situation of apartheid and to look into the wider effects and implications of the Israeli government’s precondition of being recognized as a Jewish State.

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