Knesset Renews Ban on Permanent Residency for Palestinian Spouses of Israeli Citizens

The Israeli Knesset in Jerusalem, October 30th, 2018. (credit: Juergen Schwenkenbecher /AP)
The Citizenship and Entry Into Israel law impacts thousands of families.

By Alex Kane | Jewish Currents Tuesday News Bulletin | Mar 15, 2022

“We’re talking about a law that basically tells Palestinians, ‘You are not equal.’ It tells them, ‘You cannot gain citizenship. You don’t have the privilege that we grant Jews coming from abroad.’”
— Adi Mansour, an attorney for Adalah- The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel

On Friday, Israel’s Knesset approved a law reauthorizing a ban on giving Palestinian spouses of Israeli citizens permanent residency status. Passed with 45 Knesset members in favor and 15 opposed, the Citizenship and Entry Into Israel law impacts thousands of families, though the exact number is unclear. It bars Palestinians living in the West Bank or Gaza who are married to Israeli citizens from gaining the legal benefits foreign spouses typically receive in liberal democracies. (The law also applies to citizens of so-called “enemy states”—Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, and Syria—but in practice it mostly impacts Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza.)

Such spouses, even if they get permission to live in Israel, cannot open a bank account and are unemployable if bosses don’t want to run the risk of hiring someone who may leave after one year. They also cannot get an Israeli ID, forcing them to carry Palestinian IDs, which can raise the suspicion of Israeli police officers. Most Palestinians in this situation have to renew temporary permits every year by proving that their relationship is real and that their life is centered in Israel. But those temporary permits are not available to men under 35 or women under 25. Spouses without permission to temporarily reside in Israel with their partners must live in the shadows, fearing deportation, or else resign themselves to separation from their family. Foreign, non-Palestinian partners marrying Israeli Jews do not face the same restrictions.

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