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PACBI-Two laws, one trap for family unification

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Haaretz | November 30, 2006

Two laws, one trap for family unification

The proposed new Citizenship Law and the Illegal Residents Law (Amendment No. 19 to the Entry into Israel Law) are so much alike that it begs the question of why both are being put forth. Both call for a dramatic closure of Israel's gates to non-Jews, especially residents of the Palestinian Authority. Both tread a thin line between constitutionality and non-constitutionality. Both rely on non-demographic arguments but are clearly aimed largely at preserving the demographic balance.

Both bills are being championed by the Attorney General's Office and are likely to gain broad support in the Knesset.

The similarity between the bills is so great that one must question whether the Justice Ministry is proposing them both in order to turn up the heat and guarantee that at least one of them is passed?

The Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law is a temporary order. It cannot be made permanent because it applies only to residents of the Palestinian Authority. Officially,it is intended to promote security. The new bill would extend this rationale to other risk states, presumably Arab or Muslim countries.

The Citizenship Law does not address the question of whether a person applying for family unification is in Israel legally or illegally; it simply states that the Palestinian partner of an Israeli cannot apply for family reunification if he or she is below a certain age (35 for men, 25 for women).

The Illegal Residents Law ostensibly applies only to people residing in Israel illegally, but it is clear that the majority of those seeking to formalize their status in the country are in fact illegal residents. Palestinians have no possibility of raising a family with their Israeli spouses without staying in Israel illegally for an extended period. Thus there is a significant area of overlap between the two bills.

The Illegal Residents Law would shut the gate to naturalized citizenship not only to Palestinians but also to foreign workers and to the non-Jewish relatives of new immigrants. Every Israeli believes he or she has the right to live with a partner in Israel, but this law would place heavy restrictions on the right to love.

The big question is whether the two bills contradict each other. The Illegal Residents Law cannot possibly be retroactive: There must be a transition period during which anyone living in Israel without a permit can apply for the rectification of his or her status.

The Citizenship Law, however, does not permit the vast majority of PA residents to apply for formalization of status, and if the new bill is passed, the residents of Arab and Muslim countries will also be barred from doing so.

Posted on 30-11-2006

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