For almost six years, since the beginning of the second intifada, in September 2000, Israel has forbidden Palestinians of the Occupied Territories from living with their spouses who are foreign residents. Israel also prohibits the foreign family members from visiting the Occupied Territories. Israel refuses to process the more than 120,000 requests for family unification that have been submitted during this period.
The freeze policy severely infringes the right to marry and found a family of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians: spouses are unable to live under the same roof; children are forced to grow up in single-parent families; people do not leave the Occupied Territories because Israel will not allow them to return; women who are foreign residents live in the Occupied Territories with no legal status and thus face the constant threat of deportation.
Israel contends that the freeze resulted from the intifada and the security situation. However, Israel has never explained how the policy serves its security needs. Indeed, research suggests that Israel is using the arbitrary and non-transparent freeze policy to advance forbidden demographic goals.
The report, it should be noted, does not deal with family unification inside Israel, but rather with Palestinians wishing to live with their foreign spouses in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Israel holds exclusive power over the ability of these families to live together. Only Israel can approve requests for family unification and visitor’s permits, given its control over the Palestinian population registry, and its control over the border crossings into the West Bank. Even following the disengagement, Israel retains complete control over family unification in the Gaza Strip as well. Israel continues to control the Gaza population registry, and spouses and children of Palestinians who do not carry a Palestinian identity card are forbidden from entering Gaza through the Rafah crossing. Instead they must enter through a border crossing controlled by Israel.
In the report’s conclusion, B’Tselem and HaMoked urge the government of Israel to immediately begin processing the requests for family unification and visitor’s permits.