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Family unification in the OPT: the case of KB
documents: 0  |  Updates: 1 In November 1998, NA, a resident of the West Bank, applied for family unification with KB, his newly wed wife from Jordan, to arrange for her status in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). In 1999, the couple moved to Taffuh near Hebron, were they established their home and had three daughters, all of them registered in the Palestinian population registry. For a while, KB’s stay in the West Bank was arranged through temporary visitor permits issued by the military. But in March 2000, the military stopped renewing such permits as part of its sweeping decision to freeze permits issued pursuant to family unification in the West Bank. Thus, KB’s presence in the West Bank alongside her husband and daughters became illegally in the eyes of the Israeli authorities.

For years, KB refrained from leaving the West Bank. But in 2006, following her father’s death, KB traveled to Jordan with her daughters. When she sought to return to her home in the West Bank, it turned out impossible: her attempts to obtain a visa for Israel were deflected at the doors of the Israeli embassy in Jordan; once the embassy clerks heard she was married a West Bank resident, they told her to leave. Even NA’s requests to obtain a new visitor permit for his wife were turned down – all because of Israel’s decision back in 2000 to freeze family unification processes.

In October 2007, HaMoked applied to the military to give KB the status of permanent resident of the OPT, or at least provide her with a long-term visitor permit that would allow her to return to her home. HaMoked stressed that the forced separation between KB and her daughters in Jordan and the father of the family in the West bank undermined OPT residents’ right to family life and breached the military’s obligation to uphold their rights. The military answered briefly that “with the outbreak of violence in 2000, the contact between the Israel side and the Palestinian side on such issues was broken, and so processing of family unification applications has stopped”. Nonetheless, the military added that Israel had recently decided to examine 5,000 applications for family unification in the OPT as a “political gesture”; therefore, it advised that the couple submit a new application via the Palestinian Authority (PA). NA did so and a few months later, the family received a letter from the PA approving the family unification and instructing KB to go to the nearest branch office of the Palestinian Ministry of Interior to receive a Palestinian identity card. But KB remained in Jordan: despite the family unification approval, Israel kept refusing to issue KB a visitor permit for the West bank. Moreover, it turned out that the embassy’s refusal to issue visas to Jordanian spouses of OPT residents was established in the updated official procedure.

In August 2010, KB finally succeeded to return to her home in the West Bank – more than four years after she traveled with her daughters to Jordan. But when she asked the military to issue her an identity card, she discovered that Israel had revoked the status she acquired by virtue of family unification. The military claimed that since KB had stayed away from the OPT for more than four years, “it can be deduced that her center of life is not in the Judea and Samaria Area and she does not meet the criteria required for receiving family unification status […]. Given the above, [KB] cannot receive family unification status and a Palestinian identity card in the Judea and Samaria Area”. Therefore, HaMoked wrote to the military to emphasize that KB was nor applying for family unification at all, given that her status had been approved already in 2008, and asserted that the military could not claim now that KB’s “center of life is not in the Judea and Samaria Area” after it had kept preventing her from returning to her home by rejecting or refusing to accept her applications.

Following HaMoked’s letter, the military announced it had issued KB an identity card. Thus, almost 13 years after the couple first filed for family unification in the OPT, KB acquired formal status in the West Bank.

In a letter to the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, HaMoked complains of the attitude of the Israeli embassy in Jordan toward Jordanian women who request an entry visa to the Territories in order to meet with their partner and children: The embassy is failing to follow the procedure published by the Coordinator in February 2007 (02) 627 1698   (02) 627 6317

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