3,374 East Jerusalem Residents Received Full Israeli Citizenship in Past Decade

According to new data obtained by Haaretz, the number of East Jerusalem Palestinians requesting - and receiving - citizenship rose sharply between 2004 and 2010.

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

The number of East Jerusalem Palestinians requesting - and receiving - Israeli citizenship rose sharply between 2004 and 2010, according to new data obtained by Haaretz.

According to officials, the stream of applicants for citizenship has intensified in the past two years. However, owing to various obstacles and bureaucratic hindrances, there has been a decrease in the number of those being granted citizenship.

Interior Ministry data shows that, in the past decade, 3,374 Palestinians have obtained full Israeli citizenship. In 2000, 85 Palestinians received citizenship, and in the years immediately following - 2001-2003 - the numbers tumbled to 58, 63 and 44, respectively. But from 2004 there was a steady rise in the number of Palestinians who were naturalized: 70 in 2004; 101 in 2005; 152 in 2006 (after the second intifada had ended ); 282 in 2007; 522 in 2008; 467 in 2009; and - the highest one-year figure to date - 700 in 2010.

The past two years have seen a decline (487 in 2011; and 374 until September this year ). But everyone involved agrees that the reason for the falloff is not a decrease in the number of requests but foot-dragging in the Interior Ministry. Sources in the ministry admit that the rate of requests exceed the rate at which they are dealt with.

Following the capture of East Jerusalem, in 1967, the government applied Israeli law to the territory, though the Palestinians themselves held an interim status of permanent residency. Indeed, to this day the overwhelming majority of Palestinians in the eastern part of the city continue to hold residency status.

That status grants them the right to vote in the city's mayoral elections but not in general elections. It also causes them many difficulties in day-to-day life. The procedures of leaving and entering Israel are more complicated for them and they undergo more stringent security checks.

The main problem, though, is that they can be stripped of residency status more easily - such as for an overly lengthy stay abroad or even for living, unknowingly, in a home that lies outside Jerusalem's municipal boundaries. As a result, thousands of people found themselves without legal status and unable to remain in the city.

Despite this, and even though all residents of East Jerusalem can acquire citizenship in a relatively simple procedure, hardly anyone applies for naturalization.

The reason is that the request for citizenship still continues to be perceived as legitimizing Israel's rule in the eastern section of the city.

East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan.Credit: Daniel Bar-On

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