The military to HaMoked: there is no flaw in the complete freeze of family unification in the occupied territories המוקד להגנת הפרט
The military to HaMoked: there is no flaw in the complete freeze of family unification in the occupied territories
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For many years, Israel has conducted an extremely restrictive policy regarding requests for family unification in the occupied territories (OPT), submitted by couples where one of the partners is a Palestinian resident of the West Bank and the other is a foreign national, in an effort to regularize the foreign partner's residency in the West Bank. In the year 2000, following the outbreak of the Second Intifada, Israel froze its handling of such requests altogether. Since then, excluding a single diplomatic gesture in late 2007, there has been no change to Israel's policy on the subject, and new requests are, as a rule, not received or processed by the State. Many Palestinians therefore have no option to regularize their foreign partner's status in the West Bank, forcing them to choose between one of the partners living in the West Bank with no legal status, or immigrating overseas.

On May 16, 2018, HaMoked contacted the military, requesting a change to its restrictive policy regarding family unification in the OPT, which seriously harms the rights of Palestinians to family life. HaMoked claimed that Israel holds hundreds of family unification requests that were transferred to it from the Palestinian side, which it has not processed at all, and that the Israeli side no longer receives new requests from the Palestinian side or processes them, excluding exceptional humanitarian cases.

HaMoked also addressed the regulations for the entry of foreigners into the West Bank, according to which entry permits to the OPT can be granted to foreign partners and children (up to the age of 16) of Palestinians. These permits can be extended for a period of up to 27 months accumulatively in total. In the present situation, the residency of foreign partners and children of Palestinians in the OPT is limited to a period slightly longer than two years, throughout which they cannot work or conduct normal lives. HaMoked claimed in its letter that an even more restrictive policy has been applied recently, with permits now only issued for periods of 3-6 months. Each request for permit renewal entails a high processing fee. The regulations also distinguish between citizens of Muslim countries, including Jordan and Egypt (with which Israel has diplomatic ties), and other foreign nationals – in effect completely blocking the option of citizens of Muslim countries from being granted entry permits to the West Bank, excluding in exceptional humanitarian cases.

On July 8, 2018, the military sent HaMoked its response, which described the 25-year-old regulations whereby Palestinians requesting status for their foreign partners can do so by submitting an application to the Palestinian Authority, which is responsible for relaying such requests to Israel. In the second stage, requests relayed to Israel are "reviewed by the certified actors… in accordance with the regulations in place at that time". The Military stated that it has the authority, "according to political, security and other considerations", to approve or reject requests, and later even quoted a High Court of Justice ruling from the 1980's, stating that "there is no flaw in a policy limiting the approval of requests for migration submitted due to marriage". The military's dismissive response concluded by stating that "there is no flaw in the policy for processing family unification requests that are received from the Palestinian side". If that were not enough, the Military further stated that the regulations on the subject of foreign nationals' visits to the West Bank "only apply to short term visits to the area… and are not intended to enable settling in it".

In essence, the military's response contained no new information, and HaMoked's questions were not answered. The military also avoided addressing HaMoked's principled claims regarding the serious harm caused by the freeze of family unification procedures to the rights of many Palestinians to family life.

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