The Supreme Court rules the Ministry of Interior cannot act according to expired law; must process Palestinians’ request for family unification according to the normative arrangements for granting status in Israel, until judgment is issued in the NGOs’ petition in the matter המוקד להגנת הפרט
12.01.2022
The Supreme Court rules the Ministry of Interior cannot act according to expired law; must process Palestinians’ request for family unification according to the normative arrangements for granting status in Israel, until judgment is issued in the NGOs’ petition in the matter
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In July 2021, the 18-year-long Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order) – which sweepingly prohibited granting “residency status in Israel” to Palestinians from the Occupied Territories for reasons of family unification – expired after the Knesset voted down the bill to extend it.  However, without any legal authority, the Ministry of Interior continues to apply the expired law as if nothing has changed. The Ministry is not processing requests for citizenship or permanent status filed by persons affected by the law, a population of more than 13,000 people. Consequently, thousands of Palestinian spouses of Israeli citizens or residents are still not allowed to live with their spouse, or at best live in their own home with nothing but military stay permits and no social security rights, and frequently so do their children.

Therefore, on September 14, 2021, HaMoked, ACRI and PHR-Israel petitioned the Court for Administrative Affairs to compel the Ministry of Interior “to process requests for status in Israel of those to whom the [2003 Law] applied until it expired”. The petitioners also requested the Court to issue an interim order prohibiting the Ministry of Interior to process such requests according to the expired Law, but instead to do so according to the regular normative arrangements for granting status in Israel. The Court rejected the request for the interim order on November 15, 2021, on the grounds that the requested remedy was over-general and could not be granted before final resolution of the principled issued raised by the petition.

On November 17, 2021, the petitioning organizations submitted to the Supreme Court a motion for permission to appeal, arguing, among other things, that denial of the interim order gave legitimacy to the Ministry’s illegal policy. In its response, the state argued there was no call to issue an interim order as temporary regulations for processing such requests were soon to be published. In its update of January 3, 2022, submitted in compliance to the Supreme Court’s decision, the state claimed that staff work regarding the temporary regulations would soon be completed and that by early February, 2022, a new law replacing the expired one was expected to be legislated, rendering the temporary regulations unnecessary.

On January 11, 2022, the Supreme Court accepted the appeal itself, having considered the motion “as if permission was granted and an appeal submitted accordingly”. In the judgment, the Court ruled that “It is beyond dispute that the basic rules of administrative law do not allow continued implementation of the provisions of an expired law”. The Court stressed that so long as the petition remained pending, “the Respondents must act solely according to the existing law, and may no longer follow the [expired] Law or the regulations issued pursuant to it…”. Nonetheless, the Court ruled that the appeal was granted “in a relatively limited and circumscribed sense”, as “there is no room, at the present time, to instruct the Respondents to act towards the appellants in the same manner as they [do in] processing other requests for status, with a different background”. Therefore, the Court ordered the Ministry of Interior to act according to its discretion, “but to do so according to the authority under the existing law for grant of status”.

The petition before the Court for Administrative Affairs remains pending. On January 9, the Ministerial Committee on Legislation approved a new draft of legislation to deny family unification to Palestinian spouses.  

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