Family Unification
The legal framework

The Gradual Process for obtaining a status in family reunification cases:

Until May 2002, applicants for family unification had to go through a process known as the gradual process. Any applicant for family unification was usually given a temporary permit for one year after proving his or her residency in Jerusalem. After the year an extension application was made. After 27 months of temporary permits, the applicant was granted temporary residency (A/5), which upon proof of residency was extended yearly for a total period of three years. After these three years permanent residency was granted. Residency in Jerusalem had to be proved all the way through.

family unification

Family Unification Freeze

On the 12th of May 2002, the Israeli Government issued Order No. 1813 which froze the gradual process. One year later, in 2003, this order was incorporated into a law - the‘Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law’ was introduced. This law was meant to be temporary and was initially introduced for one year; however, its validity was extended periodically.

The law applies to family unification applications concerning the Palestinian population of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and prohibits the Minister of the Interior among others to grant Israeli citizenship or residency to them. The law specifies an age restriction in section 3 whereby a family unification application can be made to the Palestinian male spouse only upon him reaching the age of 35 years or more, and to the Palestinian female spouse upon her reaching the age of 25 years or more. No family unification application could be made to Palestinian spouses who are below the ages specified in the law. Of course, the couple must satisfy the residency requirements as specified above. On top they must not have any criminal or security records, nor should any of their respective families have any such records. The law defines families as "a spouse, a parent, a child, a brother or sister and their spouses". This means that should any of the mentioned persons have any security record rather than an indictment through a due process of law (even without knowing, i.e. in cases of secret information) then the couple's family unification application will be rejected even if the couple himself does not have any record, which constitutes a form of collective punishment, moreover this “security barrier”.

The law also prevents the Palestinian spouse now from ever progressing up the gradual process to become a permanent resident of Israel or a citizen if he or she wishes to. The Palestinian spouse can only get temporary permits normally for one year to reside in Israel, without any rights or social benefits including basic services like health insurance. This affects in particular women who need medical care during their pregnancies and after giving birth. Furthermore the temporary permits have to be renewed through applying for an extension on a yearly basis, each time the spouse has to present proof of domicile in Israel and go through recurrent security checks.

On 11 January 2012 the High Court of Israel decided in a 6-5 decision, delivered in a 232-page judgment, to uphold the constitutionality of the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law of 2003 (as amended 2007). The majority of the court ruled that even if the law harmed the constitutional rights of citizens of Israel such as the right to equality, this infringement was proportional and did not violate Israel's Basic Laws. The 2007 amendment expanded the scope of the existing law to include not only Palestinian residents of the OPT but also citizens of "enemy states", namely Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran and also "anyone living in an area in which operations that constitute a threat to the State of Israel are being carried out". Following this amendment, the Israeli government ordered a full ban on all residents of Gaza from receiving any legal status in Israel.

Following the high court decision the law, which was introduced as a temporary measure in 2003, was renewed in January 2012. At the same time a committee was founded to prove the possibility to transfer the temporary measure into an unlimited law.

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