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The Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law Overview

(July 31, 2003)

The Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order) 5763 was first passed on July 31, 2003, and most recently extended in June 2017. The law concerns reunification among families whose entry into Israel represents a security risk in the eyes of the security services. This includes Palestinian residents of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, and foreign nationals from Iran, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. The aim of the law was to prevent terrorists from entering Israel and becoming citizens as well as to preserve the nation’s Jewish character.

The law makes inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza Strip ineligible for the automatic granting of Israeli citizenship and residency permits that are usually available through marriage to an Israeli citizen (i.e., family reunification).

The law originated in a 2002 Cabinet order barring citizenship to Israeli citizens who marry residents of areas governed by the Palestinian Authority. The law was extended in mid-2005, but limited its scope to allow the Military Commander to grant a temporary entry and remain permit in Israel to Palestinian spouses of Israeli citizens or residents, as long as men are over 35 years old, and women more than 25 years old. In addition:

Section 3(a) allows the granting of a temporary residency permit in Israel to a Palestinian minor, up to the age of 14, to avoid separating him or her from the Israeli parent, and granting a temporary residency permit which entitles the holder to access social rights and health insurance – to a minor above the age of 14.
Section 3(b) allows the granting of a temporary entry and remain permit for receiving medical treatment, or for work purposes or other temporary purposes, which must not exceed 6 months.
Section 3 (c) allows the granting of temporary residency or permanent residency or even the granting of Israeli citizenship in cases which are defined as a “special matter for the state.”

The law was upheld by Israel’s Supreme Court in 2006 and 2012. The majority of the Court ruled in the latter challenge that there was no violation of the right to family life or the right to equality. They further stated that to the extent that these rights are violated, the violation is considered proportionate and therefore justified according to section 8 of Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom. The majority of justices also noted the law was justified because the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are considered “enemy nationals.”

Demography was a consideration as well. “According to demographer Arnon Sofer, had the process [of giving Palestinians marrying Israelis citizenship] continued unabated, 200,000 Palestinians would receive Israeli citizenship in the first decade alone, and the number of Palestinians in Israel would rise exponentially due to the law and high population growth. Within sixty years, Jews would be a minority within Israel (not including the West Bank and Gaza Strip), effectively destroying the Jewish character of the state.”

On June 12, 2017, the law was extended, according to MK Avi Dichter (Likud), “in light of the involvement of Palestinians in terror attacks and due to the fact the Israeli identity cards allow their holders free movement.”

From 2010 to 2016, 139 people who had been brought into Israel under the Family Reunification Law were involved in acts of terrorism. The escalation of violence in 2016-17 saw a significant increase in the involvement in terror of family members of citizens or legal residents who had been brought into Israel under the Family Reunification Law.

On March 6, 2017, the Knesset adopted Amendment No. 27 to the Entry Into Israel Law prohibiting the entry into Israel of any foreigner who makes a “public call for boycotting Israel” or “any area [the West Bank] under its control.” According to the legislation, the ban will apply to any non-citizen and non-permanent resident “who knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel that, given the content of the call and the circumstances in which it was issued, [which] has a reasonable possibility of leading to the imposition of a boycott – if the issuer was aware of this possibility.” This means that it does not apply to every individual who supports a boycott.

After five activists in the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement were barred from flying from the United States to Israel, Interior Minister Arye Dery and Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan issued a joint statement explaining their decision to keep them out of the country: “These were prominent activists who continuously advocate for a boycott and who sought to come [to Israel] as part of a delegation of extremist boycott organizations whose entire purpose is to harm Israel.”

The Interior Ministry published a document that said the ban would apply to BDS activists who meet one of the following criteria:

  1. They hold senior-level positions in the targeted organizations;
  2. They are key activists in the boycott movement, whether or not they operate independently or through the targeted organizations;
  3. They are establishment figures (such as mayors) who openly support a boycott;
  4. They operate on behalf of targeted organizations.

A complete list of organizations subject to the ban is due to be published by the Strategic Affairs Ministry. The Ministry of Interior retains the authority to grant exemptions at its discretion.

Sources: Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law” and “Amendment No. 27 to the Entry Into Israel Law,” Wikipedia;
Judy Maltz, “These Four Things Will Get You Barred From Entering Israel Under Its New BDS Travel Ban,” Haaretz, (July 25, 2017).