Ministry of Interior data reveals: some 12,700 Palestinians live in East Jerusalem and Israel by virtue of family unification processes; of them, some 70% are without social security rights or status in Israel
The Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order) of 2003
sweepingly – and ostensibly on security grounds – prohibits granting “residency status in Israel” to Palestinians defined as “residents of the Area” (i.e. residents of the oPt) for reasons of family unification. This means that thousands of Palestinian spouses of Israeli citizens or residents must live in their joint home for years on end with nothing but military stay permits and no social security rights. In a minority of the cases, Palestinians whose family unification request was filed and approved before the enactment of the Law are given temporary status in Israel, which affords them social security rights but gives them no sense of stability in their own homes. Sometimes children of such families are also left without status, if they are not fully registered by the time they reach age 14. Moreover, families who are subject to this discriminatory law must contend with the lengthy delays of the Ministry of Interior in processing their requests, which increases their hardship and sense of instability, and raises the specter of deportation.
For years HaMoked has been working to have the Law revoked and at the same time assisting numerous families harmed by the Law. In this framework, on September 3, 2020, HaMoked applied to the Ministry of Interior under the Freedom of Information Law for current data concerning family unification processes from 2016 and on (following up on its previous application on this matter
). HaMoked asked, among other things, how many requests for family unification were filed during this period; how many were filed for the registration of minors; how many were approved/refused; and also, how many Palestinians were living in Israel and East Jerusalem in the framework of family unification processes, with either military stay permits or temporary residency status (visa type A/5).
On November 22, 2020, the Ministry of Interior provided a response
to HaMoked’s application. According to the data, since 2016 and until the end of September 2020, a total of 3,328 requests for family unification had been filed in the Ministry’s East Jerusalem bureau; 1,690 were approved, 871 rejected, and 767 still pending. A breakdown of the refusals shows 45% (395) were rejected due to an Israel Security Agency (ISA) preclusion; 16% (140) due to “center of life” claims and the remainder on various grounds with lower percentages.
Data on the number of people taking part in the family unification procedure during the specified period concerns only Palestinian spouses originating from the West Bank. The Ministry said that they do not have data on minor children who are part of a family unification process nor data on Palestinian spouses originating from the Gaza Strip (under Government Resolution 3598
, Gazans are prohibited from taking part in the family unification procedure). According to the data, some 3,500 people originating from the West Bank hold temporary residency status in Israel (visa type A/5) by virtue of the family unification procedure (49% of which are women and 51% are men). There are another 9,200 people originating from the West Bank who hold military permits by virtue of the family unification procedure, with no social security rights and no hope of ever receiving status in Israel so long as the nominally temporary law continues to be renewed (58% of them are women and 42% are men).
Additionally, HaMoked has been monitoring the implementation of a 2019 work plan devised to address the lengthy backlog at the East Jerusalem Ministry of Interior bureau
. Therefore in its FoI application, HaMoked asked for a breakdown of outstanding requests for family unification and registration of newborns. According to the response, as of the end of September 2020, there were in total 767 outstanding family unification requests, including 18 filed in 2016, 39 in 2017 and 103 in 2018. That means that there were still 160 outstanding requests which should have been decided upon by the end of 2020 according to the work plan. At the same time, there were 1,233 outstanding child registration requests, including one from 2016 and 21 from 2018 – that is, 22 which should have been decided upon by the end of 2020. This data indicates that overall, at present, the Ministry’s work plan is far from achieving its goal of clearing the backlog of family unification requests but there is considerable improvement regarding child registration requests.