In July 2021, the 2003 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. But, without any legal authority, the Ministry of Interior refuses to follow the regular normative arrangements for granting status in Israel in handling requests for citizenship or permanent status filed by persons affected by the law, and until recently continued to apply the expired law in such cases.
On September 14, 2021, HaMoked, ACRI and PHR-Israel petitioned the Court for Administrative Affairs in this matter, and also requested the Court to issue an interim order to compel the Ministry of Interior to process such requests according to the laws in force (which make no distinction between a Palestinian spouse and a spouse from any other country). After the Court rejected the request for an interim order, the 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…”.
However, after it soon became evident that the Ministry of Interior was still implanting the invalid policy, 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. In its response to the motion, the state again argued that by early February a new temporary procedure would be published, and on February 1, 2022, updated the Court about the publication of two new temporary procedures: The “Temporary Procedure For Processing Grant of Status to a Resident-of-the-Area Spouse Who is Married to a Citizen or Permanent Resident of Israel” – which contains no substantive provisions for processing applications, but allows grant of temporary residency status to Palestinian spouses over the age of 50; and the “Procedure Regulating the Work of the Advising Interministerial Committee for Determination and Grant of Status in Israel for Special Humanitarian Reasons” – which perpetuates the relevant provisions of the expired law, under a different name.
On the following day, the Supreme Court rejected the motion, on the grounds that there was no call for issuing a contempt of Court order “at the current time, given the steps taken by the Respondents.”
The legality of the current situation remains before the Court for Administrative Affairs, which can either schedule a hearing, issue a ruling or refer the matter to the Supreme Court as the petitioners have requested.