Military data shows Israel continues its hard-hearted policy in denying driving permits on humanitarian grounds to Palestinians undergoing family unification in Israel המוקד להגנת הפרט
Military data shows Israel continues its hard-hearted policy in denying driving permits on humanitarian grounds to Palestinians undergoing family unification in Israel
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On October 25, 2018, HaMoked requested the military issue a permit for driving in Israel to a Palestinian woman, originally from Hebron in the West Bank, who has been living in Jerusalem since 2012 pursuant to stay permits as part of the family unification procedure. The woman is one of thousands of Palestinians living in Israel with these temporary military-issued permits, without certainty about their future and without social security rights. This, due to the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order), which prohibits grant of residency status – temporary or permanent – to residents of the oPt who are married to Israelis.

The woman and her husband have three children, the youngest, born 2017, is severely handicapped and requires frequent medical treatments and even repeated operations. As a result of the toddler’s tragic condition, the family faces many difficulties on a daily basis, disrupting their normal routine. Their hardships are increased by the fact that the father does not have a driver’s license (as he has a learning disability), and Israel refuses to give the mother a driving permit that would enable her to use the family car in order to take care of the family’s needs. This, as part of Israel’s highly restrictive policy on issuing driving permits to Palestinians from the oPt who live in the country legally. HaMoked’s request on behalf of the woman was based on a procedure set up by the military in 2013 – following a HaMoked petition – which regulates the issuance of driving permits to Palestinians originating from the oPt, but sets severe threshold conditions and in general grants these permits only in cases of unique humanitarian need – such as the case in question. Despite that, HaMoked’s request was inexplicably denied on the grounds of failure to meet the criteria.

Given the heart-wrenching circumstances, which are undisputedly humanitarian, HaMoked sent a repeat request to the military on September 2, 2019, asking it to reconsider giving the woman a driving permit. In its letter, HaMoked noted that the child’s complex medical condition necessitated receiving weekly treatments at four different health clinics, frequent checkups with specialists and also repeated hospitalization and surgery. HaMoked clarified again that the toddler’s condition precluded use of public transportation. HaMoked also noted that given that the father could not drive, the family had to rely on the willingness of the extended family to drive the toddler and his mother to the various treatments. HaMoked claimed that giving the mother a driving permit not only met the stipulated humanitarian criterion, but was also, quite simply, “the obvious and right thing to do”.

This time, a positive response arrived within days, and on September 8, 2019 – almost a year after the first request was filed – the woman received an Israeli driving permit. However, the permit stipulates that she can only “drive in Israel for the purpose of taking [her toddler son] to receive medical treatments”. The permit also contains an express warning that “any use of the permit for other purposes constitutes a violation of its conditions and may lead to its cancelation and to criminal proceedings against its holder”. Evidently, as far as the military is concerned, it is completely unacceptable that this woman drive one of her other children to the dentist or take the car to the grocery store to buy food for her family.

The military rejected without any explanation HaMoked’s additional request, of December 1, 2019, to change this permit to a general driving permit. This, despite HaMoked’s assertion that “it is wrong to deny Mrs. […] the ability to tend to the needs of her other children, as well as her spouse”.

Despite the unreasonableness and heartlessness of giving so limited a permit in such circumstances, the woman in this case is actually of the lucky few who received a driving permit at all, albeit a limited one. According to the military’s response of October 22, 2019 to HaMoked’s freedom-of-information petition on this matter, from January to September 2019, only 9 people received this permit (four of them received a permit restricted to taking a relative to medical treatments); and in 2018 only 8 people received driving permits (all of them restricted ones). It was also disclosed that in 2018, 58 requests for a driving permit were filed, and 50 refused; and in 2019, 47 such requests were filed, and were 16 refused. This data conforms with previous data on the issue, and shows that the military persists in its insensitive policy and rarely issued driving permits to those who need them.
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