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Two steps forward, one step back: Israel’s new discriminatory health rights for Palestinians

A new law that extends health insurance rights to non-citizen family members of Israeli citizens discriminates against Palestinians, according to an attorney working on the subject.

Israeli ministers signed the new regulations, which according to a Haaretz report on Monday, will primarily benefit Palestinians who are permitted to live in Israel under “family unification” procedures.

(The Knesset last week extended the formal ban on family unification, which was first enacted 11 years ago at the height of the Second Intifada. The ban, to which humanitarian exceptions are occasionally granted, applies only to Palestinians and therefore primarily discriminates against the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel, who are most likely to marry Palestinians from the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Those Palestinian family members of Israeli citizens who are granted humanitarian exceptions are given military permits to stay in Israel, but not formal residency permits that would allow them to work or make them eligible for any other social rights granted to residents or citizens.)

What the Haaretz report missed, however, is that the new regulation gives far more, and far cheaper social and health rights to non-Palestinian family members in Israel for reasons of family unification.

Furthermore, while Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party is attempting to take credit for the new regulation, which despite its discriminatory shortcomings is an important step forward, it turns out that the change is the result of a High Court petition and not, as Attorney Oded Feller of ACRI notes, the good will of any legislator.

Atty. Feller writes on his Facebook page (my translation):

New politics at its finest.

The arrangement for health insurance for Palestinian family members is not a “Yesh Atid” initiative, nor is it borne of anyone’s good will.

It is a settlement that the government was forced to adopt after a petition was filed to the High Court of Justice in 2009. The High Court issued an injunction, the state dragged its feet, and ultimately accepted the settlement. The arrangement was adopted by the health minister and finance minister under the previous government but it took time to be anchored in into new regulations, which is how the current politicians came to take credit.

This is an important arrangement, but one that is discriminatory and inferior to the one that applies to non-Palestinian family members. Filipino, Romanian and American family members are eligible for full health insurance like Israeli citizens and permanent residents enjoy, and they also receive fee waivers as defined under the law. (Children, for example, are exempt from payment.) The arrangement for Palestinians includes fixed monthly payments with no waivers — payments that are also levied on children. In addition to the monthly payments, Palestinian children and spouses are also forced to pay a very high initial payment, which non-Palestinian family members are not required to pay. Palestinian family members of permanent residents (particularly East Jerusalem residents, who are the poorest people in Israel) must pay NIS 7,695 ($2,207) in addition to the monthly payment.

Therefore, the High Court’s involvement in the case is not over. In an exceptional step, before the new arrangement was even published, the High Court ordered that a revised petition be filed against it, which can be interpreted as an order nisi. In accordance with the High Court order, a revised petition against the arrangement was filed after its publication. The petition will be discussed at beginning of next month, on April 7, 2014.

It must also be said that alongside the — discriminatory and inferior — health insurance arrangement, the government refused to provide Palestinian family members with the right to national insurance, as opposed to non-Palestinian family members who are eligible for full rights just like Israeli citizens and residents. That decision was also made by the previous government, but if “Yesh Atid” really wants credit, then its ministers of welfare and finance, who also adopted the decisions of their predecessors, are responsible for the fact that Palestinian family members do not have national insurance. The High Court will also discuss that.

WATCH: Israeli ban on family reunification, a ‘temporary measure?’
PHOTOS: A decade on, Citizenship Law still denies Palestinians their rights

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    1. Bar

      This is called having your cake and eating it too.

      Plenty of organizations that criticize the settlements are specific they include pre-1967 Jerusalem (eastern Jerusalem) in their claims and claim that Israel is in violation of international law, Geneva Conventions, etc. because of its control of this part of the city.

      Israel has offered any eastern Jerusalem Palestinian the right to become an Israeli citizen, because it has annexed this area. Most Jerusalem Palestinians refuse to take this step because it indicates acceptance of Israeli sovereignty. In other words, they openly indicate they wish to remain aligned with the PNA and their Palestinian co-nationalists and unaligned with Israel.

      Doesn’t the manner in which this law is prescribed address this specific set of circumstances? They still receive subsidized benefits but have to pay additional fees precisely because they are not Israelis or permanent residents.

      Reply to Comment
      • Haifawi

        Any Palestinian born with Israeli residency has to undergo an expensive and time-consuming naturalization process. I have a friend from Beit Hanina who recently completed this process. It cost over 15,000 NIS, took over 5 years, and severely limited her ability to leave the country during that time.
        As an American Jew, I filled out a few forms and was on a free flight within 2 months, presented with hard cash and a T.Z. upon arrival at Ben Gurion, and had the ‘pleasure’ of listening to school children caterwauling Zionist songs upon entering the Arrivals Hall.

        Reply to Comment
        • Bar

          Anecdotal. But even if true, so what? The Palestinian is fortunate to have an avenue to enter Israeli society and Israel does not owe that person citizenship (or, on the other hand to allow that person to avoid citizenship since the land is annexed, but does it out of respect for their political position) but grants it anyway. Israel was founded as a state that serves as a home and refuge for the Jewish people and that is why you are granted citizenship with greater ease. Dozens of countries, including European democracies, have laws of return on their books and they pick and choose who may qualify.

          Reply to Comment
          • Felix Reichert

            Which of course doesn’t make these policies any more morally justified or right.

            Even if countries like my own (Germany) have a “Right of Return”. This right of course only reaches back a couple of hundred years, and not thousands. And of course it only applies to people living in the countires of the former Soviet Union, because Germans were actually persecuted there after WW2.

            If you’re someone with German roots living in the USA, Chile, Indonesia or even Israel, you have no right of return.

            However, it is still wrong. The whole concept of nationality based on ethnicity and/or religion is inherently wrong, anti-liberal and anti-democratic.

            I despise the German conception of what constitutes a “real German”, both in public discourse and in legislation.

            There’s only a few western countries on earth where the situation is worse, one of them being Israel.

            (And I do know that is even more despicable in most Arab countries, where women can’t even pass on their citizenship if the child is born in a foreign country.)

            Not only does Israel discriminate against everyone who isn’t a Jew (like Germany discriminates against anyone who isn’t an “ethnic German”), it discriminates even more against a very specific, very small group of people: Palestinians.

            It is much easier for a (Christian) French woman or a (Shinto) Japanese man to gain Israeli citizenship on grounds of marriage to an Israeli, than it is for a (Muslim) Palestinian.

            Sorry to remind you of the facts, which you seem to like so much.

            Reply to Comment
          • Bar

            “Even if my own country is like yours, that still means I get to criticize yours because I feel like it. And anyway, we’re better than you guys.”

            “But nationality like yours is all wrong and contrary to values that I want you to have.”

            “My country is terrible but yours is actually worse because you guys are worse than us.”

            All I can say, as I shake my head in disbelief that a German is essentially lecturing a Jewish person about some bullshit details that supposedly make the Jewish state the worst offender among all nations is that this conversation is perhaps one of the most incredible I’ve ever had. Please go away.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            >It is much easier for a (Christian) French woman or a (Shinto) Japanese man to gain Israeli citizenship on grounds of marriage to an Israeli, than it is for a (Muslim) Palestinian.

            That is, probably, because Christian or Shinto terrorists are a rare kind, while Muslim terrorists are a dosen a dime.

            Reply to Comment
          • East Jerusalemites did not ask to be annexed in a Crimean style referendum. You annexed them, just have the Knesset declare them citizens. By keeping them in limbo unless they payout for the privilege of living where they always have, you also retain the option of expulsion–for they are not even permanent residents, keeping them in as much limbo as the maze of law will allow.

            Reply to Comment
          • Haifawi

            Ah this is indeed a good point. Any East Jerusalemite that obtains permanent residency or citizenship in a third country risks having their Israeli residency revoked. They are condemned to either remain in limbo or renounce their birthplace by the Israeli government.

            Reply to Comment
          • Bar

            They are not condemned to limbo. They may take Israeli citizenship. The fact Israel has not taken them on as citizens is rooted in the fact that many of these people do not wish to be considered Israelis as they hope to live in a Palestinian state. It is actually respectful of them, even if you and Greg are turning it into something ugly.

            Reply to Comment
          • Wesley Sandel

            Beautiful. A Palestinian who can trace her ancestry in Palestine back hundreds of years, longer than 90% of Jewish Israelis, “is fortunate” that Israel will provisionally recognize her right to be in Palestine, even though it will still subject her to a host of laws designed to discriminate against her. You couldn’t make this kind of thing up. No one would believe that the speaker wouldn’t be too embarrassed to say something as racist as that.

            Reply to Comment
          • Bar

            “Beautiful. A Palestinian who can trace her ancestry in Palestine back hundreds of years,”

            Many Palestinians can’t do this. Jerusalem, for example, was a Jewish majority city in the mid-1800s. Building in its environs only began in earnest in the later 1800s and these are the areas we are discussing. In addition, the Jordanians moved people into formerly Jewish residential areas.

            “longer than 90% of Jewish Israelis,”

            Well, if you want to pursue this standard, then I guess you love the current situation because 95% of Palestinians have never set foot inside Israel. So there’s no confusion on your part as to whom it belongs. Right?

            ““is fortunate” that Israel will provisionally recognize her right to be in Palestine,”

            It’s not Palestine, it’s citizenship in the Israeli state. You seem confused because you’re so busy inventing terms that don’t exist. Allow me to help: there has never been a sovereign state of Palestine, and even Mandatory Palestine was essentially territory belonging to the Ottoman province of Syria. On the other hand, a state called Israel, exists and has been around 60+ years. As a state, Israel has laws for its citizens, its permanent residents and other residents. Palestinians who live in eastern Jerusalem who don’t fall under the purview of UNWRA or the PA receive the benefits permanent residents do, but without the obligations. Pretty good deal. And, if they so choose, they may become citizens of the state of Israel. What happened to all you one-stater wonks? Isn’t this what you want?

            “even though it will still subject her to a host of laws designed to discriminate against her.”

            You mean, like receiving permanent resident benefits? Or do you mean like giving that person the right to become a citizen?

            “You couldn’t make this kind of thing up. No one would believe that the speaker wouldn’t be too embarrassed to say something as racist as that.”

            Ah yes, it’s 11 o’clock so it’s time to trot out the racism charge again. Now excuse me, I was planning to watch a video about some Mexicans trying to cross the highly fenced and guarded US border. Goddamn racist Americans don’t want to let them in.

            Reply to Comment
    2. Reza Lustig

      So the fact that that the PNA is less a “government,” more just a toothless “provisional” appendage of the Israeli occupation, doesn’t factor into things for you? These people are all under Israeli jurisdiction, as per the occupation, and you have to treat them well. It speaks volumes about people like you and Trespasser that you are unwilling to agree with ANY criticism of Israeli abuses of Palestinians go by you, no matter how indefensible (and there are others, far more indefensible than this particular example), instead finding ways to justify them via technicalities or “they do it too!” If tomorrow, the IDF blew up every mosque in the occupied territories during evening prayer, I bet my future child’s eyes on it, you lot would be ready with some kind of justification or moral equivocation.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bar

        The toothless appendage beat the USA at the UN.

        The toothless appendage is funded with foreign funds that include funds and programs for health care.

        What a horrifying thought that you would blind your child. But you’ve committed yourself. This is a publicly announced contract, right?

        Reply to Comment
    3. I am encouraged by the High Court’s new petition order. In a series of cases there is evidence that the Court, or at least some members of it, have decided the present and last governments have gone too far.

      May it be so.

      Reply to Comment