Israel Mulls Stripping Residency From Palestinian Lawmakers From Hamas

Move by interior minister would see 12 Palestinians involved in terror lose their legal status as part of new law; four are Hamas parliament members

Mohammed Abu Tir (center, with green scarf) after he is released from jail in 2010. He is one of four Hamas men who could lose their legal status along with Ahmed Atoun, Mohammed Totah and Khaled Abu Arafeh
Tomer Appelbaum

Israel is considering stripping 12 East Jerusalem Palestinians of their permanent residency because of their involvement in terrorist activity. The 12 include four Hamas members of the Palestinian parliament.

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A statement said Interior Minister Arye Dery began considering this step after the Knesset passed the necessary legislation two weeks ago. The new law allows the minister to strip any permanent resident of his residency rights, including East Jerusalem Palestinians, if they were involved in terrorism or otherwise acted against the State of Israel.

The law was passed in response to a High Court of Justice ruling last September that overturned a decision from more than a decade ago to strip the four parliamentarians of their permanent residency. The four men – Mohammed Abu Tir, Ahmed Atoun, Mohammed Totah and Khaled Abu Arafeh – all hold key roles in Hamas institutions.

Dery is also considering revoking the residency of Mohammed Abu Kef, Walid Atrash and Abed Dawiat, who killed an Israeli when they stoned his car in Jerusalem on Rosh Hashanah eve in 2015. Bilal Abu Ghanem, who perpetrated an attack on a Jerusalem bus that killed three Israelis in 2015, is on the list as well.

Ayil Qassam, Asem Abbasi, Mohammed Odeh and Ali Abbasi are on the list because they were part of a cell involved in several terror attacks, including the bombing of Jerusalem’s Moment café in 2002, which killed 11 Israelis.

“Murdering Israelis and involvement in attacks against civilians is the gravest possible breach of faith between a resident and his country,” Dery said. “The same goes for active, significant involvement in terrorist organizations. Residents and citizens who endanger the Israeli public and constitute a threat to its safety should know that their status is in danger, on top of the other penalties laid down by law. I will work with all my might and all the means at my disposal to fight terrorists and anyone who’s involved in or abets terror.”

Attorney Osama Saadi, who represents the four Hamas parliamentarians, said, “The amendment in question is unconstitutional, and even the attorney general opposed it. Moreover, the law states that in any case, it’s not possible to revoke the residency of East Jerusalem residents, who have a special status, and leave them without any residency.

“We will petition the High Court on behalf of these four, who, as you’ll recall, have been waging a legal battle against the revocation of their residency since 2006 and won their petition a few months ago,” he added. “This amendment violates international law, and wholesale revocations, such as are happening today, show that this is a political law by a crazy government.”