Jeruaslem The Supreme Court on Sunday upheld a law that bars many Palestinians from living in Israel with Israeli spouses and children, a landmark ruling that security concerns outweigh harm to those affected.
Critics accused the court of defending racist legislation aimed at restricting the number of Arab citizens in Israel. But the government said there was evidence that some West Bank Palestinians who married Israeli Arab women took part in terror attacks.
In other developments Sunday, Israeli soldiers shot and killed six Palestinian militants in West Bank arrest raids, the Israeli navy stopped a Palestinian boat loaded with high-grade explosives headed for Gaza, and a Florida teenager died of wounds suffered last month in a Palestinian suicide bombing in Tel Aviv.
The court case, decided by an unusually large panel of 11 justices, centered on two of the touchiest issues that have been facing Israel for decades - balancing security and human rights, and maintaining the state's Jewish identity while dealing fairly with a large Arab minority.
The answers are never clear-cut, as reflected by the 6-5 vote to uphold the law, which bans Palestinian women under the age of 25 and men under 35 from living in Israel with their Israeli Arab spouses.
The restrictions, imposed in 2002 at the height of Israeli-Palestinian fighting, are believed to have kept hundreds, and possibly thousands, of West Bank and Gaza Palestinians from moving to Israel. Exact numbers are not known.
State Prosecutor Yochi Genessin said the state has granted 6,000 of 22,000 requests for family unification since Israel and the Palestinians signed an interim peace deal in 1993. Some were rejected for security reasons, she said.
The law was enacted after a Palestinian who had acquired Israeli citizenship killed himself and 14 other people in a suicide bombing of a Haifa restaurant in 2002.