A Joint committee of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, headed by MK Avi Dichter (Likud), recommended on Wednesday that the Knesset plenum extend by another year the validity of the emergency provision to Israel’s Family Unification Law.
The provision, the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law, which was first enacted in 2003 at the height of the Second Intifada, restricts the ability of residents of Iran, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Libya, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, the West Bank and Gaza Strip to automatically gain legal status in Israel under the Family Reunification Law.
The Family Reunification Law grants automatic legal status to foreign nationals who marry Israeli citizens.
(MK Avi Dichter, archive photo)
While the Supreme Court banned the provision to the law from being permanently added, the Knesset has voted to extend the temporary act as an emergency measure every year since 2004.
Ahead of this year’s vote to extend the act, the joint committee heard testimony from experts and security officials on the effects of the provision.
A representative of the Shin Bet internal security service said those seeking reunification with family members in Israel pose a security risk due to the possibility that they will be used to carry out terror attacks or engage in espionage. According to the Shin Bet, 104 citizens or legal residents who had been brought into Israel under the Family Reunification Law had committed acts of terrorism from 2001 to 2016. Of those 104, 17 had married Israeli citizens, while 87 were relatives of those who had married Israelis.
The Shin Bet official also noted that residents brought into Israel under the Family Reunification Law were playing an increasing role in terrorism. He noted that 73% of terrorists with Israeli citizenship who had committed acts of terror against Israelis since the beginning of the terror wave last September were brought in as part of family reunifications.
Of the 104 terrorists who entered Israel in this manner, 30 had committed terror attacks over the past nine months. He also noted they were responsible for 13% of all terror attacks in the recent terror wave.
Attorney Noam Kehan told the joint committee that more than 12,500 people had applied for legal status under the Family Reunification Law.
Attorney Tal Hassin of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel said the procedure in which the temporary act is extended is ”improper” and ”harms tens of thousands of men, women and children whose only `sin` is that they are Palestinian and are therefore viewed as a security threat.”
MK Ahmad Tibi (Joint List) said ”no one is claiming that [those who applied for legal residency status] were themselves involved in activity aimed at harming the security of the state. There is not even one case. How is the Shin Bet`s argument different from the approach of [MK Bezalel] Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi)? The sons who are born are likely to carry a rifle and carry out a terror attack? This proves that the law is not based on any security-related concern. It is only implemented because you view a love story of a Palestinian couple as a plot against state security.”
MK Anat Berko (Likud) said, ”The citizens of Israel have a right to live in security. This is not an arbitrary decision, and the cases speak for themselves. We are in favor of love stories, but if everyone claims there is apartheid, why do they want to move the center of their lives [to Israel]? These people can be easily influenced, and they have no real connection or commitment to the country.”
MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) argued that ”this entire group is under suspicion only due to racism, and the claim that this is a security issue does not come close to justifying such a collective and continuous injustice.”
MK Osama Sa`adi (Joint List) called the law ”one of the most racist laws to ever be enacted by this Knesset. Four High Court judges determined that it was unconstitutional. It is time to erase this black stain from the Book of Laws.”
MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Camp) said the Shin Bet`s arguments did not convince him that this group of people poses a ”unique threat,” while fellow Zionist Camp MK Merav Michaeli said ”From what we have heard here, it is obvious that humanitarian amendments to the law are required, for the benefit of us all.”
MK Mordhay Yogev (HaBayit HaYehudi) said, ”Saving lives is a supreme value, and where lives are at risk, it also restricts the individual. However, I agree with my colleagues that the validity of the law should be extended, providing that humanitarian amendments are put in place.”
Committee Chairman Dichter concluded the meeting by saying, ”I am very concerned about the data presented here – that more than 10 percent of the terrorists in the past year belong to the group we are talking about. However, we should also take into consideration the older population, people aged 60 and over, as well as minors aged 14 to 18. These issues must be discussed more than once a year, so I ask that the committee vote to recommend that the Knesset plenum extend the temporary act by a year, but I also ask that additional meetings on these issues be held within the next six months.”