In July 2021, the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order) – which was first passed in 2003 and 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 and refuses to process requests for citizenship or permanent status filed by persons affected by the law, a population of more than 13,000 people.
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. After the Court rejected the request for an interim order, the petitioning organizations submitted to the Supreme Court a motion for permission to appeal.
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 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…”. That same day, the appellants requested the Court for Administrative Affairs to rule on their repeated request to transfer the proceedings to the High Court of Justice. However, the request remains pending.
Moreover, to date, nothing has changed in the conduct of the Ministry of Interior and it continues to implement the invalid policy – as evidenced by its response of January 17, 2022, to HaMoked's objection to an upgrade refusal, in which the Ministry stated that the decision in that case "has been made according to the decision of the professional committee advising the Minister of Interior under Section 3a1 of the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order). Additionally, despite its repeated declarations in the framework of the legal proceedings, the Ministry of Interior has not yet formulated temporary procedures for processing family unification requests by people harmed by the expired law. Additionally, the appellants’ letter of January 12, 2022, regarding how the Ministry of Interior was planning to adapt its policy to the Supreme Court’s judgment has not been answered thus far.
Therefore, on January 18, 2022, the appellants submitted to the Supreme Court a motion under the Contempt of Court Ordinance, to compel the state to comply with the court’s judgment. The appellants argued that this was an exceptional matter of considerable scope and weight, especially given the identity of those failing to abide by the judgment.
In its response to the motion, the state argued on January 25, 2022, that in principle, Section 6 of the Contempt of Court Ordinance “is unsuitable for enforcing compliance on the State”, and that in the particular matter in hand, it could not be said that there was an unequivocal violation of the judgment, as required by the Ordinance. The state argued that all applications filed “at this point in time” by people to whom the expired law had applied, “are accepted at the Population Administration offices pursuant to the provisions of the 1952 Entry into Israel Regulations, and will be issued with a request number… The continued processing of the sum total of requests will be conducted according to the temporary procedure to be published” by early February. It was also claimed that insofar as decisions had been made based on the previous policy, this occurred in error.
The state’s response underscores the appellants’ concern that in practice, requests will be accepted but not processed until a new temporary order is issue, which will be similar to the expired law.