Palestinians start applying for citizenship under family unification laws

Of note. Creating ‘facts on the ground’ while the law has not been renewed:
Palestinians who are married to Israeli citizens but who have not been able to obtain Israeli citizenship or residency due to the Citizenship Law which the government failed to renew this week have begun filing requests for such standing with the Interior Ministry.
NGOs, including the Hamoked civil rights group, have begun filing requests for citizenship and residency on behalf of their clients, and are encouraging others to do so as well.
There are some 9,200 Palestinians married to Israeli Arab citizens who have the most basic “stay permits” allowing them to reside in the country but which have to be renewed every one or two years, and another 3,500 who due to special circumstances were able to obtain temporary residency visas.
They will all now be able to apply for citizenship, although since the Arab population of east Jerusalem generally shuns citizenship in favor of residency those with stay permits in the city will likely request residency visas.
Until now, the 2003 Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law prevented Palestinians who marry Israeli Arab citizens from obtaining citizenship through naturalization, as is available to other foreign national spouses of Israelis.
The law was passed on security grounds and later extended to Syrians, Lebanese, Iraqis and Iranians who marry Israelis.
But the law has been criticized by human rights groups as discriminatory and on humanitarian grounds, and was opposed by coalition partners Ra’am and Meretz.
Although compromises were found, two Ra’am MKs abstained, while Yamina rebel MK Amichai Shikli voted against, and the law was toppled.
This means that those Palestinians married to Israeli citizens can now start the application process with the Interior Ministry for citizenship or residency like any other foreign national.
They will be able to apply first for a B1 visa, then an A5 temporary residency visa, and ultimately for citizenship if they do not live in east Jerusalem.
Jessica Montell, Executive Director of the Israeli human rights organization HaMoked, said that her organization represents approximately 400 families and that it has begun filing visa applications for them to the Interior Ministry.
In some families not just the spouse needs to obtain residency, the children do as well, she said.
Asked whether the ministry might hold up the processing of applications while the government ponders new steps, Montell insisted that the “Ministry doesn’t have right to drag its feet,” and that it had to “respect people’s rights.”
She said the standard response time for a request to a government authority is 45 days, and that if her clients did not receive responses in such time they would take the issue to court.
“The ministry cannot ignore these requests for a year in the hope a new law is passed,” said Montell.
“Israelis are just as safe as they were before the law expired. The authorities still have all the tools necessary to prevent dangerous people from entering the country, but without this law we will be a little bit more free and equal,” she said.
“Without this law, all Israeli citizens and residents have an equal right to fall in love and build a family, and that’s good news for these families and for everyone who cares about basic human rights.”
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked has said however that she intends to bring the law back to the Knesset for a vote in the coming weeks in a fresh attempt to get it approved, meaning that the gateway to citizenship for such people may soon be closed.
Shaked has emphasized the security basis of the law, stating this week that the majority of terror attacks carried out by Arab Israeli citizens have been committed either by individuals who obtained some form of status in Israel through family reunification under the Citizenship Law, or by their offspring.
The Shin Bet said in 2018 that since 2001 some 155 individuals involved in terror activities obtained entry to Israel under family reunification laws.
But the law has also been justified to preserve Israel’s Jewish majority, something emphasized this week by Shaked, as well as  more centrist figures like Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and, a few weeks ago, Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

Source: Palestinians start applying for citizenship under family unification laws

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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