The Israel Supreme Court, in a 6-5 decision, yesterday ruled in favor of a law that, in effect, prevents Palestinian residents of the West Bank/Judea and Samaria who marry Israeli citizens from moving into Israel.
The law states that only Palestinian women over the age of 25 and men over 35 are eligible to join their families in Israel, and eventually receive citizenship.
The majority ruled in favor, while acknowledging that it is a discriminatory law, because of security considerations. Namely, they consider the PA to be hostile to Israel and that a war is ongoing between the two sides. As a result, the majority claimed that such marriages where the PA-governed spouse moves into Israel, would allow for security issues to develop.
Deputy Chief Justice Mishael Cheshin…argued that “Israel isn’t obliged to open its gates to citizens of an enemy state, with which it is engaged in armed conflict.”
The minority claimed that this was not a significant security issue and that a deep bias against one ethnic group within Israel was driving the issue.
Chief Justice Aharon Barak…stressed that legislation curtailing Arab “family reunification” inside Israel is “by nature discriminatory as it applies only to one ethnic component of Israel’s population.”
Of course, one could question whether demographics are or are not a weapon in this war between the two sides, but as of now, Israel’s government, backed by the strongly independent Supreme Court seem to feel that demographics may be a weapon. One of the justices who voted in favor had even asked why the couple in question had to move into Israel and could not live in a Palestinian city outside of Israel instead.
It wasn’t just the Supreme Court that was divided on this issue. The Jerusalem Post has an editorial on this issue where they seem to agree with the ruling.
It is striking that the narrow minority of justices did not consider that Israel has the same right to preserve its character as countries far less imperiled, like Denmark. Realizing that if present immigration trends continue unchecked, Copenhagen will become a city with a Muslim majority in two decades, the liberal Scandinavian state instituted severe limitations on the entry of foreign spouses who marry Danish citizens. Similar get-tough legislation has been enacted in other European countries such as Holland.
There is no comparing Israel’s acute vulnerability with the situation in Western Europe. Israel is openly threatened with annihilation – not just physically, by a potential Iranian nuclear capability, but demographically, by Palestinian claims of a “right of return.”
Ha’aretz object to the ruling quite strenuously.
There is no country in the Western world that does not limit immigration and set priorities in accordance with its needs at a given time. Immigration laws make it difficult for foreign partners of citizens to receive citizenship, and they combat fictitious marriages. But not one single Western country discriminates against some of its citizens by passing laws that apply only to them, and that impose limits only on their choice of a partner with whom they can live in their homeland.
It is difficult to accept the argument that the amendment to the Citizenship Law, which won the Supreme Court’s approbation yesterday, comes in response to a genuine security need. It is easier to accept the skeptical position of Justice Ayala Procaccia, who wrote that in light of the facts before her, she doubted whether the security explanation is the only one behind the law.
The Jpost article reminds us that 140,000 Palestinians entered Israeli legally during the Oslo years, an event that some called a “back-door right of return.” While the vast majority have not been involved in acts of terror, there is little doubt that demographically, this is a serious blow to a country that wishes to preserve a Jewish majority. As demographics continue to become an ever-increasing issue in this Israeli-Arab conflict, I suspect we’ll be seeing more of these difficult issues arising. They will truly test the character and nature of the state of Israel.