Basic law: Immigration to Israel
The Basic Law: Immigration to Israel is a proposal by MK Mai Golan (Likud); on July 11, 2021, the hearing of the law by the Ministerial Committee for Investigative Affairs was postponed for six months.
The proposed law defines an illegal immigrant as someone who entered Israel or resided within its borders not under the Law of Return, a valid tourist visa, or a work visa. The explanatory preface states that the State of Israel has the right to determine who will enter and reside in the country, and that this right includes authorization to prevent illegal immigrants from entering its territory or remaining once they have entered.
The proposed law also explains that the country has a right to limit the freedom of an illegal immigrant, as defined by this law, by imprisonment, arrest, restricting his location, expulsion from the country, extradition, or any other means.
Although the law has support in the Knesset, the proposal is raising a political storm, given that its source is from the Likud party, which currently sits in the opposition. The coalition opposes the law for political reasons, similarly to the laws proposed by the opposition, one to revoke citizenship of terrorists receiving salaries from the Palestinian Authority and the other the Citizenship Law, which fell for the same reason, despite broad support in principle. Originally, the law was proposed by former MK Navah Boker (Likud).
Why does Israel need a law covering immigration to the country?
Since the founding of the state, Israel has absorbed many immigrants, mostly Jews or descendants of Jews who immigrated to Israel under the Law of Return. In addition, the State of Israel allows immigration to the country under the Citizenship Law and the Entrance to Israel Law, for the purposes of family unification or temporary dwelling in Israel in accordance with Israeli residence visas.
To avoid endangering the demographic majority in Israel, and because Palestinians who obtained legal status on the grounds of family unification then committed terrorist acts in the second Intifada, the Citizenship and Entrance to Israel Law – 2003 was passed as an emergency measure. This law has been renewed periodically by the Knesset until the recent political crisis. The purpose of the law is to rule out the granting of Israeli citizenship or residence to Palestinians who are residents of Judah, Samaria or the Gaza strip and are spouses of Israeli citizens.
The law forbids the unification of families in which one spouse is an Israeli citizen and the other a resident of the territories. An additional amendment from 2007 expands the ban to include unification with citizens of hostile countries such as Iran, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.
Purpose of the law
None of the abovementioned laws defines restrictions on the entrance of refugees to Israel, once they have been defined as such. The proposed law came up in the previous Knesset, reached the stage of final legislation and even obtained approval of the Knesset Legal Office, but was not advanced due to political and legal opposition. Those opposing the proposed law explained that Israel is in fact obligated to take in asylum-seekers according to international accords. Another explanation is connected to the fear that the law will be invalidated by the Supreme Court or interpreted in a way that empties it of all content, as happened in the past with the issue of the infiltrators. Ultimately, without an appropriate law, Israel lacks a legal basis to deal with immigration.
The law tries to address these issues. Thus, for example, Section 2 of the law states that “the basic rights of the State of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic country, and to protect its citizens’ existence, are based on the right of the State of Israel to prevent the entrance of illegal immigrants to its territory and their residence there, and on the recognition that the State of Israel’s national security considerations allow the country the absolute right not to allow a change in its population’s constituency by accepting illegal immigrants to enter from outside Israel except under the Law of Return.”
The law’s explanatory preface tries to nullify the influence of other constitutional laws such Human Freedom and Dignity, which could allow the entrance of infiltrators or prevent their expulsion: “The State of Israel is the only country of refuge for the Jewish people and as such, it is a country with unique characteristics … The new constitutional law is worded to make it clear that what is stated therein, and its interpretation, prevail and will always prevail over anything stated in constitutional laws and legislation in the State of Israel, including everything stated in the constitutional law: Human Freedom and Dignity, and over the restrictive ruling stated therein.”
The law’s future is mainly tied to the political situation. If an agreement law is achieved between the coalition and the opposition, the law will be tabled in the Knesset and will pass; if not, it will most likely be brought up for a vote again when that is made possible by a political change.
Contact us for counsel in dealing with immigration authorities
At our law offices in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, you can find an Israel immigration lawyer who deals with all aspects of immigration to Israel. We represent private and business clients before the Population and Immigration Authority and the Interior Ministry throughout Israel, regarding anything related to legal status in Israel. For any other questions regarding Interior Ministry policy, changes in policy, and legal counsel regarding immigration to Israel, contact our offices – Israel immigration attorneys.