How the Israeli Judicial Overhaul Meets Mixed Couples

Guest Article by Max Sorin / Blog / Opinion Articles

Unless you’ve been in a coma for the last seven months, you’ve probably noticed that Israel is going through turbulent times. Since the new government was elected and announced its plans for the judicial overhaul, the country is at unrest. I’m sure that many of us, mixed couples, are anxiously following the ongoing events. Statistically, some of us protest in the streets, and no matter which side of the discussion you are on, we are all worried about what is going to happen here in the near and far future.

My name is Max, 35 years old, from Tel Aviv. Me and my girlfriend Ania, from Poland, have lived together in Israel since 2016 and went through many hurdles as many of you experienced. When we moved to live on Eliezer Kaplan street in 2017, little did we know that the street we live in would become the center of the hottest political debate in Israel’s history.

Though the conflict affects everyone, I think that mixed couples are affected in a different way.

In this article I will try to share my own experience and personal perspective about recent events. I will elaborate how I think the overhaul and other relevant events meet us, international couples, and hopefully, will address some of the fears and worries people experience.

For more details about the legislation, the different opinions and an in-depth explanation about the effects of the current situation, check out Barak Ravid’s article.

The Personal Life Aspect

In the last 30 weeks, hundreds of thousands of worried civilians marched our street and other streets across the country in protest against the government’s legislation. We’ve rallied and chanted for democracy, holding Israeli flags.

But meanwhile, our other halves didn’t necessarily share the same enthusiasm. While we were spending hours in fierce debate, they might have wondered “where the hell did I get to”? The already hard and lonely experience of moving to a new country, the feeling of not belonging, is being amplified by being excluded from the political conversations that took over any interaction.

Moreover, the time I invest and find myself away from my beloved one doesn’t help either. Our partners, who left everything in their home countries to be with us, find themselves alone, and scared.  

We, the Israeli partners, should be aware of it, balance it wisely, find the time to spend together, and mediate the situation, to reduce anxiety and stress. On the other hand, for the foreigner partner, I think it’s important to understand the amount of stress that some of us are going through. People are afraid that the non perfect, faulty country they live in will turn into a non democratic state that they won’t be able to live in. It’s important also to give space to these feelings.

The Legal and Political Implications

I’m not a lawyer, so this is not a professional opinion, but I will try to point out the possible relevant implications of the reform on us, mixed couples, as I see it.

The law that passed on 24/07/2023, abolishing the “reasonableness doctrine,” which the Supreme Court of Israel has employed to evaluate government policies is extremely relevant to us.

Today, the Minister of Internal Affairs (Misrad Hapnim) possesses the authority to approve or decline all visa requests. When you get your B1 or A5 visas, it is done by the delegation of authority of the minister to the clerks in Misrad Hapnim. Some couples had to appeal to court about the decision in their case. From now on, these appeals won’t be able to use the reasonableness doctrine. The court can still override the decisions for other reasons, but their toolbox is getting limited.

In addition, the appointments of officials won’t be a subject for judicial critique on the basis of reasonableness, which in turn can potentially lead to political appointments in the different governmental offices.  Unprofessional appointments will lead to a worse service to us all. If you thought that waiting for 6 months for a meeting is too much, it might get even worse.

Moreover, the next steps in the judicial overhaul are intended to pass more power to the government. The current government is considered to be one of the most nationalist and religious governments in Israeli history. It’s reasonable to assume that more anti-immigration policies will be promoted.

The Optimism

Considering all of the above, the temptation to pack the bags and to leave somewhere else is natural. It’s even more prominent amongst mixed couples. I understand this decision and might follow this path as well for various other personal reasons.

For the ones that look for reasons to leave, there are plenty. I will try and provide some reasons to stay.

The current government awakened a huge resistance amongst wide populations that were unpolitical for decades. The public pressure is succeeding in slowing down and blocking many of the legal initiatives, corrupt appointments and governmental attempts for power grab.

The protests already achieved a big change to the original suggested reform. The majority of the Israeli population is leaning towards a compromise and the current government is losing its popularity in the polls.

Many core conflicts raised to the surface and it will be hard to ignore them in the near future. Politicians that will want to get elected will need to provide plans how to deal with it and will be measured by that.

The crisis that is happening now could have come ten years later, when it would have been too late.

Now there is still time to fix it.

Now you can help fix it.

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Maxim Sorin
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