The Israeli National Insurance Institute (NII) manages the collection of compulsory social contribution as provided by the law, the distribution of social benefits to beneficiaries. Those benefits include health insurance, unemployment and aging benefits etc. The investigations of the NII in order to examine if a beneficiary is “rightful” are closely connected to the “center of life” criteria, upon which Palestinian Jerusalemites must prove that their center of life is Jerusalem. Failing to do so results in the revocation of their “permanent residency” and their displacement from their city and away from their families.
Although never entitled to full citizenship rights, Jerusalemites holding a permanent residency are entitled to benefits of the NII. The law requires each citizen or resident at the age of 18 to open a file at the NII. However, this file is not automatically opened for Palestinian residents, who usually delay their application until they have an income in order to pay the contributions. The NII does not grant benefits to any resident who is not “effectively” in Jerusalem. To ensure that only people who are truly entitled receive benefits, the NII has its own team of investigators who examine information provided by residents applying for benefits.
The investigation is a lengthy process during which the beneficiaries are denied any social protection and health insurance. The investigations of the NII have been criticized by many human rights organizations for breaching principles of proper administration and grossly violating the rights of the Palestinian residents of Jerualem. The investigations do neither follow principles of impartiality nor due process. Investigators very often violate the privacy rights of the applicants when they visit them at their homes. The NII specifically investigates couples with mixed residency, i.e. while both Palestinians, one holds a Jerusalem ID, and the other holds a West Bank ID. Therefore, the Ministry of Interior very often requests from applicants for family unifications to open a file at the NII. As soon as the file is opened, the Ministry receives the investigation results from the NII.
If the NII investigators find proof that the applicants reside outside the municipality boundaries of Jerusalem (which means in the West Bank), it will not just reject the family unification application, but also use the investigation results as a base to revoke the residency of the requester. Therefore the NII is a major actor within the political instruments in order to displace Palestinians from Jerusalem.
The Society of St. Yves – Catholic Center for Human Rights has observed that the NII is making its procedures and investigations policies stricter; which makes obtaining the benefits and rights of beneficiaries a complicated task. A recent example is the case of the Jerusalemite citizen (S.A), an elderly lady suffering from extremely difficult health conditions; she also suffers from a hearing and speaking disability. Obtaining S.A’s benefits was a long battle that lasted months and that encountered many obstacles. S.A did not have knowledge of how to apply for those benefits by herself; this is when she approached St. Yves and the beneficiary intake department, which corresponded with the NII requesting them to provide S.A all of the benefits that she is entitled to. The NII claimed that S.A did not live in Jerusalem although she did in fact reside in Jerusalem for more than 10 years; St. Yves provided all the necessary documents to prove that. Once the “center of life” condition was proven, the NII signaled that S.A had an accumulation of debt and then freezed her benefits despite the fact that her economic and social situation was really difficult and each delay of her obtaining them were only making her situation worse. St. Yves worked on removing the freeze, but then an issue with her bank account occurred as she could not be use it because it was inactive for years, due to her extremely difficult financial situation. St. Yves assisted her in opening a new account to guarantee that she receives her benefits from the NII, which she eventually did.
It is noteworthy that the NII is strict in regards to proving Jerusalem as a center of life for Palestinian Jerusalemites, and deliberately complicates the procedures and delays the applications by all means to avoid providing those benefits.