Palestinian spouses of Israeli citizens to be given work permits 13Nov12 November 13, 2012

Haaretz   -   12 November 2012

The Interior and Justice Ministries have decided to grant work permits to Palestinians who are not entitled to Israeli citizenship but have permits to stay here temporarily.

The state announced the change of policy in a court case filed by Hamoked – Center for the Defense of the Individual on behalf of four temporary residents of East Jerusalem. Lack of permission to work in Israel has affected thousands of Palestinians who are married to Israeli citizens or to permanent residents, mainly in East Jerusalem. Most East Jerusalem residents opted not to acquire Israeli citizenship after Israel annexed the eastern part of the city after the 1967 Six-Day War, but are considered permanent residents.

Until 2002, the state allowed Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza Strip to acquire legal status in Israel through marriage to Israeli citizens or permanent residents. But that year, the most violent of the Second Intifada, the government halted this arrangement for Palestinian applicants on the argument that it posed a security threat to Israel. The High Court of Justice turned down legal challenges to the new policy, which was renewed on an annual basis by the Knesset.

As a result, thousands of Palestinians with family ties in Israel were left without legal status here, and instead settled for permits that had to be periodically renewed, allowing them to stay in the country temporarily. The permits did not give them social welfare benefits or the right to work, unless a specific request to hire them for their special skills was submitted by an employer. Since most of them had no specialized skills, the requests were rarely filed.

The four Palestinians on whose behalf Hamoked filed a petition included a 50-year-old man who is married to an East Jerusalem resident with permanent residency status, but he himself was unable to become a permanent resident due to the change in the law in 2002. He has been unable to find work over the past 10 years because he could not work legally.

The change allowing him to work is to go into effect on January 1. In another development related to Palestinian employment, the government agreed Sunday to issue 3,000 additional work permits for Palestinians seeking work in the construction industry. About a month ago, 1,000 additional permits were issued for Palestinians working in agriculture.

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