Tuesday October 6, 2015
Israel Hayom
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Nadav Shragai

Family reunification? Not in Israel

Last January, when, with only a slight majority, the High Court of Justice overturned a previous ruling and decided to uphold an amendment that prevents Palestinian spouses of Israeli Arabs from reuniting with their families in Israel, there were many who complained with sour faces.

But the courageous ruling, which put the good of the whole over the good of the individual, was made necessary by our reality. Last week, we were reminded once again of this reality: A Palestinian man from Beit Lakia, who received Israeli citizenship years ago when he married an Israeli Arab from Taibeh, is suspected of having taken advantage of the freedom of movement his citizenship afforded him to carry out a terror attack on a Tel Aviv bus.

He wasn't the first. Before him there was Shadi Tubasi, a suicide bomber who murdered 16 Israelis at a restaurant in Haifa 10 years ago, who had received Israeli citizenship thanks to his mother's Israeli status. Many years earlier, the mother had married a resident of the West Bank town of Jenin.

Of all the Arabs involved in terror attacks during the Second Intifada, 25 had better access to their targets as Israeli citizens, thanks to the family reunification law. With all due respect to the constitutional right to family life, it cannot be upheld here, at least not until there is peace. After all, these families can exercise their right to a family on the Palestinian side.

There is also another aspect to the family reunification law, one that is only hinted at in the many High Court rulings that deal with this issue. Under this law, before it was amended, some 400,000 Palestinians from all over made their way into Israel, essentially exercising their "right of return" via a back door.

Professor Arnon Sofer, the head of the research center at the National Defense College, found that in terms of demographic multiples, the numbers were even higher. The big "boom" came after the Oslo Accords were signed (137,000 new citizens). The main motivation behind reunification, it turned out, was financial. Israel's child stipends were a big draw. Many of the men who "reunified" in Israel were married to more than one Palestinian woman, and their children became Israeli citizens under the law. In the Bedouin sector, the law was invoked at an especially high rate, and in east Jerusalem as well.

But the debate over demography isn't considered politically correct enough, especially not in the High Court. The only place where this topic is explicitly discussed is in security circles. But anyone who reads the minutes of the Knesset meeting during which this amendment was adopted will understand that it is about so much more than security.

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