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Government votes to extend the family unification ban (JERUSALEM POST) By AP AND JPOST STAFF 05/15/05)Source: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1116123539513 JERUSALEM POST JERUSALEM POST Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
The government on Sunday overwhelmingly (16-2) decided to extend the temporary measure in the Civic Law stating that Palestinians from the territories who are married to Israeli-Arabs would not be able to receive Israeli citizenships or live in Israel.

The ban was imposed in May 2002, at the height of the terror wave, as a temporary security measure.

The restrictions, which have been challenged in the Israeli Supreme Court, are believed to have kept several thousand Palestinians from uniting with spouses who are Arab citizens of Israel.

While officials have linked the measures to security concerns, the restrictions also cut at a deeper issue: fears that the country´s Jewish majority could be threatened by granting Palestinians citizenship.

"I think the real issue here is what is called the demographic issue, the fear that the clear-cut majority of Jews in Israel would be reduced," said Moshe Negbi, an Israeli legal commentator. "It´s not said publicly, because it has racist, nonpolitically correct connotations."

Under the new rules, Palestinian women over the age of 25 and men over 35 will be eligible to join family in Israel and eventually receive citizenship. The above cases represent 24% of the ´mixed´ couples. The rules will remain in effect for a year.

The Cabinet rejected a more lenient proposal by Interior Minister Ophir Pines-Paz that would have lowered the unification age for women to 20.

His proposal would have enabled about half of the divided families to reunite, said Gilad Heiman, a spokesman for the minister. Heiman said about 1,200 families applied for unification in 2001, the year before the restrictions went into effect.

Pines-Paz said he was unhappy with the compromise and questioned whether it would stand up to Supreme Court scrutiny.

"There is certainly a violation of human rights, including of Israeli citizens," he told Army Radio. "There is a law here that is completely unequal, that differentiates between Jewish citizens and Arab citizens."

Despite his concerns, the Cabinet adopted the tougher proposal presented by Justice Minister Tsipi Livni, said Livni´s spokesman Shai Ben-Maor.

"Every country has the right to determine limits on who will enter and who will become a citizen of the country," Livni told Army Radio before the vote. "There is no discrimination because we are not dealing with the rights of Israeli citizens, but rather the desire of those who are not currently citizens to be citizens in the future."

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, one of several human- rights groups to challenge the restrictions in the Supreme Court, said it will continue its battle against the law.

"Of course it´s much better than before, but it still discriminates against people because of age. It still discriminates Palestinians from others," said Yoav Loeff, a spokesman for the group. (© 1995- 2005, The Jerusalem Post 05/15/05)


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