An increasing number of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem are applying for Israeli citizenship, according to figures included in a report from the International Crisis Group, an independent non-profit NGO, on East Jerusalem.
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The report's editors could not ascertain an exact number, citing contradictory data received from government ministries. However, the report showed, between 2008 and 2010, approximately 4,500 Palestinians living in East Jerusalem submitted applications for Israeli citizenship. In the eight years prior to 2008, a total of some 2,500 citizenship applications were submitted, while several thousand applications in total were submitted since 1967.
Out of the applications submitted between 2008 and 2010, one-third were approved, one-third were rejected, mostly due to security claims, and another third were postponed to be dealt with at a later date. Various organizations handling this matter have surmised that the number of applications has increased since 2010, and the report's editors note that the figures they cite are a minimum, and may even be greater.
The report also quotes interviews with Palestinian inhabitants of Jerusalem, who believe this trend of increased applications for citizenship will continue. Respondents' personal opinions on the matter did not appear to affect their take on the issue.
The report also noted "a dramatic lessening in the stigma attached to seeking Israeli citizenship." It said that those who "secure it are less coy about it than they once were while others are much readier to contemplate it. A professor from Al-Quds University said that among the city’s intellectuals and elites, ‘It’s hard to find a dinner party nowadays where people don’t discuss it.'"
The editors of the report link the applications for Israeli identity cards to a sense of insecurity among inhabitants of East Jerusalem, stemming from what it calls the policy of “silent transfer” – which essentially revokes East Jerusalemites’ legal rights by claiming they don't reside in the city. “For those at risk, Israeli citizenship can be something of an insurance policy,” the report states.
The report, entitled “The Withering of Arab Jerusalem," describes a very bleak situation in East Jerusalem. “For many Arab East Jerusalemites, the battle for their city is all but lost,” reads the report's opening paragraph. “Settlements have hemmed in their neighborhoods, which have become slums in the midst of an expanding Jewish presence; trade with the West Bank has been choked off by the Separation Barrier and checkpoints; organized political life has been virtually eradicated by the clampdown on Palestinian institutions; their social and economic deprivation is rendered the more obvious by proximity to better-off Jewish neighbors."
The editors included a series of recommendations, for Israelis and Palestinians, at the end of their report. They suggest the Palestinians rethink their policy of boycotting the municipal elections in Jerusalem as a way of dealing with the crisis in East Jerusalem. As for Israel, the report recommends it enable representation of East Jerusalem residents by means of neighborhood administrations or other entities.
The editors also call upon Israel to allow the Palestinians to reopen the Orient House – the former PLO headquarters in East Jerusalem – and the Chamber of Commerce, which were shut down around the second intifada.