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Israel: interior ministry refuses to process family unification requests

Israel’s Interior Minister and former Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked attends the launch of the political party "Yemina" on 12 August 2019 in the Israeli city of Ramat Gan. [JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images]
Israel’s Interior Minister and former Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked attends the launch of the political party "Yemina" on 12 August 2019 in the Israeli city of Ramat Gan. [JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images]

The Israeli Ministry of the Interior is refusing to process family unification applications submitted by Palestinian men married to Israeli citizens, although the occupation authorities are required by law to consider these requests after the expiration of the extended Citizenship and Entry to Israel Law.

According to Haaretz, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked directed the Population and Immigration Authority not to process applications pending the formulation of a policy to handle this file. This follows the failure of the coalition government to extend the temporary law regulating the ban on family unification requests.

The temporary order, which denies Palestinians married to Israeli women the right to obtain civil status, was enacted as a provisional amendment to the citizenship law during the second Intifada in 2003, since when it has been extended every year. However, the term of the law expired about two weeks ago, after the government failed to obtain a majority in the Knesset to extend it.

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The amendment of the Family Reunification Law restricted the right of concerned families to be unified, only allowing them at most to obtain a temporary residence permit in Israel in accordance with their work authorisations. In any case, Palestinians cannot apply for family unification before the age of 35, with Israel arguing that there are "security" considerations given the allegations that many Palestinians took part in "terrorist activities" after obtaining a family unification permit.

According to Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, "The law is one of the tools designed to ensure a Jewish majority in the State of Israel, which should not be hidden in its essence."

As long as the temporary order is in effect, any request submitted to the Israeli interior ministry will be automatically rejected, unless the minister decides otherwise. Once the unification laissez-passer expires, the situation must be reversed, as each request must be examined separately by the domestic security agency. In the event that the request does not generate any security concerns, it is approved automatically unless the interior minister decides otherwise.

Many Palestinian families have asked the Population and Immigration Authority to upgrade their authorisations to full citizenship for those under 35. However, they have not received any responses. The families have threatened to take the authority to court.

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