Yesterday, on March 1, 2022, the Knesset began discussing whether to re-legislate the Citizenship Law. In a position paper that we sent to the Chair of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on February 14, 2022, along with the Physicians for Human Rights - Israel, and HaMoked: The Center for the Defense of the Individual, we claimed that furthering such legislation is unacceptable. This is a discriminatory and racist law that blatantly denies rights on the basis of nationality, and infringes upon the constitutional right to equality, the constitutional right to family life, the welfare of children, and other social rights preconditioned on residency or citizenship status.
In the position paper, we presented the Citizenship Law’s harmful implications for state citizens and Palestinian residents: the enactment of the law will lead to a sweeping freeze on 14,000 applications for naturalization or permanent residency. It will deny many basic social rights, such as national health insurance, social security benefits, housing assistance, and welfare services. For others, it implies ongoing separation or forced departure from their homes in order to exercise their right to a family.
We also addressed the motives behind the legislation, and claimed that the law has no security justification and that it was enacted for demographic reasons. “Per the data provided by the Shin Bet over the years, regarding the age limits applicable to Palestinians seeking family reunification, there is no information capable of establishing a sufficiently sweeping risk capable of justifying such a grave constitutional violation," the position paper notes. We are of the opinion that rather than categorically denying applications for Palestinian spouses’ status, the appropriate resolution for security considerations is to promote an individual security check for those seeking family reunification and status in Israel.
We strongly oppose the new law. Yet if it is enacted in any case, at the very least changes should be made to ensure the protection of applicants' basic rights throughout the family reunification process. Such changes include being granted health, social, and civil rights, legal assistance, eligibility to issue a driver's license, the possibility of working in professions that require licensing, and more. Moreover, we demand that men as of age 55, and women as of age 50, be excluded from the law to lower the threshold age for receipt of spousal status; and that minors from East Jerusalem who were born into separated families, may enjoy the status of resident up until the age of 18.