Following HaMoked's letter: Palestinians whose family unification applications are slated for rejection on security grounds will receive an oral hearing
As part of the discretion vested in the Minister of Interior under the Entry into Israel Law, the minister may reject applications for family unification in Israel due to a security risk posed by the foreign spouse seeking to receive legal status in the country. Accordingly, a protocol has been put in place, compelling the Ministry of Interior to obtain the position and recommendation of Israel's security agencies before approving a family unification application. Originally, the protocol did not allow couples undergoing status procedures to respond to allegations made against them before the decision in their application was made. According to the protocol, the couples could only receive a brief summary of the security information when they received notice that their application had been rejected.
In 2008, the Ministry of Interior appealed a ruling handed down by the Jerusalem Court for Administrative Affairs. The Court held that when the State was considering rejecting a family unification application filed by an East Jerusalem resident for a foreign spouses for security reasons, the Ministry of Interior had to allow the applicants to plead their case before it made its decision. On August 11, 2009, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal
, and anchored the requirement to hold a hearing in its judgment. The Supreme Court said that the hearing should preferably take place both orally and in writing, and that if the Ministry of Interior was considering rejecting an application on security grounds, it had to notify the applicants of this intent prior to issuing a decision, and provide as many details as possible so that the applicants could properly prepare for the procedure and argue against the intended rejection. The Court also ruled that only in the most exceptional cases, when the Ministry of Interior was able to convincingly show why the applicants posed a real and present danger, could the order be reversed, and the hearing held after the decision was made. In such cases, the Court sanctioned ordering the foreign spouse to leave the country pending a decision in the application.
On April 15, 2010, the Ministry of Interior published a revised version of the "Security Agency Comment Procedure"
. The new version was meant to respond to the remarks of the Court and to regulate the hearing process. However, the revised procedure is problematic and falls short of answering the needs identified in the judgment.In a letter to the Ministry of Interior
dated March 1, 2011, HaMoked listed its reservations about the new procedure. One of HaMoked's grievances was the fact that the ministry, contrary to the clear position of the Court on the issue, did not attribute much importance to having oral hearings and considered hearings in writing to be sufficient.
More than two and a half years (!) after HaMoked sent its letter, the Ministry of Interior made changes to the procedure. In a letter to HaMoked
, the ministry explained the main change in the procedure - an openness to holding oral hearings for people who have already started the graduated family unification procedure, but whose applications were slated for rejection due to information received from security officials. People whose initial family unification application was met with a refusal, would receive a hearing in writing only.