Also in the Post-Oslo-Era: 

Empty Promises 
Family Reunification for Humanitarian Reasons - Family Reunification for Palestinian Spouses 

In summer 1993, the Israeli government issued a statement concerning its future policy regarding family reunification in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This policy statement, which attempted to circumvent criticism at the multilateral negotiations, was further clarified in spring 1994 and has since been treated as the official reference on family reunification in the occupied territories (including the areas administered by the PNA, excluding East Jerusalem). The policy statement provides that 2,000 family reunifications would be granted annually to persons belonging to one of three categories: 
- spouses of Palestinian residents of the area; 
- persons who apply for humanitarian reasons; 
- persons whose residence in the area is in the authorities’ interest. 

However, an analysis of cases filed by the AIC-Project for Palestinian Residency & Family Reunification reveals a different reality. All three family reunifications granted in 1994 refer to West Bank residents whose spouses are protected by the November 1992 High Court Agreement. Not a single family reunification was granted to non-resident spouses not protected by the agreement or to persons who had applied for humanitarian reasons (78 applications). Several of these applications were refused (8); the rest have not received answers, although their applications have been pending for more than a year. 
Moreover, despite Israeli promises in the multilateral negotiations, no definition of what the authorities consider sufficient humanitarian reasons for family reunification has been provided. 

Muhammad Hassan Akel left the country in 1967 to work as a teacher in Saudi Arabia. Due to the war he could not return and consequently could not obtain an Israeli-issued ID card. He is married, has two children, and lives in Jordan. Muhammad’s mother, Fatma Akel, is a resident of Halhoul, Hebron. She is very old and living alone. Since Muhammad is her only child, there is nobody to care for her since her husband’s death. On 4/11/92, she applied for family reunification for her son, but her application was refused without explanation. 
Request by Atty Lea Tsemel/AIC to Bet El (27/10/93): Review the application and explain reasons for refusal. 
Answer by Oren Ne’emani/Bet El to Atty Lea Tsemel (16/12/94): The application was considered and rejected. 
Atty Lea Tsemel/AIC to Bet El (24/1/94): I request reasons for the refusal. 
Answer by Oren Ne’emani/Bet El to Atty Lea Tsemel (6/3/94): The application was refused because we did not find humanitarian reasons for granting it. This is an application which has been validated by the High Court as sufficient for rejecting a family reunification application. 

Today, as in the past, the persistent denial of family reunification leaves Palestinians who wish to live in the occupied territories with no other choice but to obtain a short-term visit permit and to stay on after it expires. The Israeli authorities have responded with threats of deportation and with the decision to suspend all visit permits - including those requested for married spouses - until the summer season.

issue no. 11