The Palestinian owner of the American Colony Hotel's English-language bookshop will not be deported, after a special inter-ministerial committee granted him a two-year reprieve, after which he can apply to be a permanent resident.

Munther Fahimi, the owner of the bookshop frequented by many foreign journalists and diplomats, was born in East Jerusalem, but lost his residency rights after spending years in the United States. He petitioned the High Court of Justice after the Interior Ministry ordered him deported two and a half years ago.

The court suggested he apply to the inter-ministerial committee which deals with humanitarian cases.

The committee informed his lawyer recently that Fahimi would be allowed to stay in the country for about the next two years, after which he can submit a request again to become a permanent resident.

Fahimi lived in Jerusalem until he was 21 and then moved to the United States, where he lived for about 20 years. He returned to live in Jerusalem in 1993, but at that point, he had lost his residency rights due to his long time out of the country and his acquisition of American citizenship. Like most East Jerusalem Palestinians, Fahimi had opted not to become an Israeli citizen.

He began returning to Israel on an American passport, generally on a short-term tourist visa, and would then leave and reenter on a new visa.

But a couple of years ago, the Interior Ministry informed Fahimi that it would no longer allow him to enter the country on such a basis. A number of leading authors in Israel and abroad championed his case.

Fahimi expressed delight over the committee's decision to allow him to stay, but said it also made him think about the circumstances of others in his situation, who were not as well connected.