Israel Passes Law Allowing It to Revoke Permanent Residency of East Jerusalem Palestinians

The state can deport anyone whose residency status is withdrawn ■ Israeli Arab MK says bill is part of effort 'to empty East Jerusalem of Palestinians'

A woman and a child walk in a street of the East Jerusalem refugee camp of Shuafat January 3, 2018
\ AMMAR AWAD/ REUTERS

The Knesset passed a law Wednesday allowing the interior minister to revoke the permanent residency status of Palestinians living in East Jerusalem who engage in terror or other anti-Israel activities and any permanent residents involved in such acts. Under the law, the state can deport anyone whose residency status is withdrawn.

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The government-sponsored law specifies three situations in which the interior minister can revoke permanent residency: If the status was granted under false pretenses, if the resident endangered public safety or security, or if he betrays the State of Israel.

The law applies to all permanent residents, whether they are recent immigrants or long-time residents of East Jerusalem. Under the law, the interior minister must grant an alternative status to a person whose residency was revoked if the individual cannot be permanently resettled in another country.

The law was drawn up after the High Court of Justice last year overturned the revocation, more than a decade ago, of the permanent residency status of four East Jerusalem men.

In January 2006, Mohammed Abu Tier, Ahmad Attoun and Muhammad Totah were elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council as representatives of the Hamas party. The fourth man, Khaled Abu Arafeh, was the minister for Jerusalem affairs in the short-lived government of Ismail Haniyeh. Then-Interior Minister Roni Bar-On rescinded their residency on grounds of disloyalty to Israel.

The High Court ruled that Bar-On had exceeded his authority by voiding the men’s status. Nevertheless, the court froze the ruling for half a year to give the Knesset a chance to pass legislation that would allow the rescinding of their residency status.

The so-called Abu-Tier law allows the interior minister to rescind someone’s permanent residency status with the approval of the justice minister and after consulting with an advisory committee to be set up by the interior minister. The interior minister’s decision can be appealed by filing a petition to an administrative affairs court.

MK Amir Ohana (Likud), who had submitted a private member’s bill similar to the government bill, said, “It would have been better if this bill hadn’t happened, but this bill emerged following a High Court ruling that overturned the decisions of five interior ministers from numerous parties.”

He said the court’s ruling “undermined the public’s trust in the Supreme Court because the law already said that the interior minister could rescind a residency permit at his discretion, but the court said that definition was too broad. Who thinks that convicted Hamas men who want to kill Israelis and destroy Israel have to continue to receive what the Israeli taxpayer has to offer?”

MK Dov Khenin (Joint List) called the law “bad and dangerous legislation. The mechanism created by this law will bring the residents of East Jerusalem into the worst of all possible worlds. Residents of East Jerusalem live there not because they chose to be Israelis but because it is their home. You are in effect creating an obligation of loyalty for people for whom there is no connection of loyalty between them and the State of Israel.”

MK Esawi Freige (Meretz) said, “Since 1967 there has been a campaign to empty East Jerusalem of its Palestinian residents. We see this in the entrance of Border Police to the neighborhoods, in the conduct of government institutions, and in laws like this, and to hell with human rights and international law.”