Last update - 02:23 27/03/2007
A law we cannot accept
By Haaretz Editorial
The Citizenship Law continues to burden the law books and cause damage to the reputation of democracy in Israel. The blow to the right of Arab Israeli citizens to choose to live here with their partners is sweeping and detrimental to the rights of Arab citizens.
The amendment to the Citizenship Law was approved by the High Court of Justice exactly a year ago, with a majority of six justices in favor and five opposed. But it was obvious then that the approval was conditional and temporary, and would require significant changes if the state were to opt to make it permanent. Justice Edmond Levy, who joined the majority opinion and in essence legitimized the illegitimate, was of the opinion that he was voting in favor of extending the law by only two months. Meanwhile, the law was extended repeatedly, and this week it was extended for more than a year.
The state's promise to the High Court of Justice to make changes to the law - after the former president of the Supreme Court, Aharon Barak (who led the minority view), said that the prohibition was not proportional and that it undermined the constitutional right to equality and family - was not carried out. Even though a committee examining special humanitarian cases was established to evaluate each case independently (since the law states specifically that humanitarian issues cannot serve as the basis for the presence of a partner or a child in Israel) in practice, there is very little flexibility. If the centrality of the humanitarian argument is rejected at the outset, it is doubtful whether the committee has any practical significance.
The head of the committee is appointed by the Interior Minister, and it can be assumed that his views will hover over it. It is possible that a minister stricter than Roni Bar-On will be appointed in the future, who may not permit any such requests. In fact, the law allows the minister to prevent categorically the reunification of families with Arab citizens from countries in the region or the territories.
MK Zahava Gal-On, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Adalah have not despaired of the possibility that the law will be revoked by the High Court of Justice, since their petition against the law still stands, and the view of Barak, who assumed the law would be rescinded for being unconstitutional unless it is changed, still echoes. Establishing a committee with such limited authority to examine special cases does not satisfy the petitioners and they are hoping that the High Court of Justice will also not be satisfied with this minimal development.
The main problem with the Citizenship Law in its new format is the lie inherent in its content - as if it is purely a security-related issue. When the state wants to annex[steal] territory, it ignores the security risk of including hundreds of thousands of hostile Palestinians. A large part of the requests for reunion come from residents of East Jerusalem, from whom it would have been possible to disengage some time ago if it were not for the delusional dream of unifying all the parts of the city.
The Citizenship Law does not further the country's security, but rather damages it by broadening the gap between the rights of Israel's Jewish and Arab citizens. It would have been better to do away with this amendment to the law and for the Interior Ministry to reject or approve requests for family reunification on an individual basis, on the basis of the opinion of security sources, just as it has been throughout the state's existence.