Israel's Knesset to vote on controversial bill blocking Palestinian spouses' residency rights

Israel's Knesset to vote on controversial bill blocking Palestinian spouses' residency rights
Since 2003, a controversial bill has barred Palestinians married to Israelis from earning permanent residency in Israel. The law, which has been contested in the Israeli High Court, is up for renewal at the Knesset this week.
2 min read
07 February, 2022
Mickey Levi, the Speaker of Israel's Knesset parliament which is due to vote on a controversial bill barring Palestinian spouses from getting residency in Israel [STEFANIE LOOS/AFP via Getty]

Israel's Knesset is set to vote this week on the Citizenship and Entry Into Israel Law, a controversial measure that bars Palestinians from the Palestinian territories married to Palestinians with Israeli citizenship from automatically earning citizenship and residency permits.

The bill was approved on Sunday by the Israeli cabinet, allowing it to move forward to the Knesset for final approval.  

The bill was in line with a series of temporary laws banning permanent residency in Israel for Palestinians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip who marry Israeli citizens, which have been contested by Israeli High Court rulings. 

It was first adopted in 2003 and had been renewed annually until this July when the bill expired without securing renewed approval.

Negotiations were ongoing between members of Israel's ruling coalition to renew the bill, which the Israeli executive effectively continued to enforce despite its expiry, denying family reunification for many.

Live Story

Earlier this month, the High Court ruled that Israel's interior ministry could not continue to deny family reunification for Palestinians married to Israelis since the temporary bill barring them from obtaining residency had expired.

Palestinians married to Israelis can only apply for a temporary residency status renewable each year, which can be removed at any time by authorities under the pretext of "national security".

Israel's policies towards Palestinians have left what officials estimate to be tens of thousands without legal status and have torn many families apart.

Officially the Israeli government has been taking the position that the limitations on granting Israeli residency or citizenship are based on security considerations - to prevent Palestinians involved in "terrorist activity" from becoming Israeli citizens.

Others have rebuffed these claims, saying  Israel is trying to reduce the number of Palestinians being granted Israeli citizenship.

Senior Israeli officials have also publicly acknowledged their fears that the move could boost Israel's non-Jewish population.

"The family reunification law has nothing to do with security. It is related to demography, because Israel, since the Nakba (Catastrophe in 1948) and its aftermath wants to preserve a Jewish majority, and that is the basis for this racist law," Ofer Cassif, member of Knesset told Anadolu Agency in an interview last year.