Interior Minister Arye Dery has revoked the permanent resident status of four East Jerusalem Palestinians charged with carrying out terror attacks. Dery's move on Thursday marked the first time that the interior minister has used his legal authority to revoke a residency permit since the current wave of attacks began in September.
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Dery’s predecessor in office, Silvan Shalom, had initiated the process of revoking the residency status of the four Palestinians, before resigning in December over allegations of sexual harassment.
Three of the Palestinians — Mohammed Salah Mohammed Abu Keif, 18, Walid Fares Mustafa Atrash,18, and Abd Mahmoud Abd Rabu Doyat, 20, from Sur Baher in East Jerusalem — threw rocks at vehicles in Jerusalem on the eve of Rosh Hashanah in September 2015, causing the death of Alexander Levlovich, who lost control of his car after being hit by the rocks.
A month after Levlovich‘s death, in mid-October, the State Prosecutor’s Office filed an indictment against the three as well as two unnamed minors for manslaughter, aggravated assault and battery and throwing rocks at a vehicle. The five were charged with carrying out the attack as an “act of retribution and identification with what was happening on the Temple Mount,” a reference to Palestinian allegations that Israel is seeking to change the status quo on the site that is sacred to Jews and Muslims. The five are being held in jail until the end of legal proceedings against them.
The fourth Palestinian who has lost his permanent residency status is Balal Abu Ghanem, 21, from Jabal Mukaber, who is being held for the October 12 attack on a Jerusalem bus in which three Israelis were killed. Abu Ghanem was charged with three counts of premeditated murder and seven counts of attempted murder in the deaths of Alon Govberg, Richard Lakin and Haviv Haim. His accomplice, Bahaa Alian, was killed during the attack. According to the charge sheet, Abu Ghanem, a longtime member of Hamas, boarded the bus carrying a pistol and used up all his ammunition. Alian then used a knife to stab passengers, and was killed by police responding to the attack.
“It is unthinkable that a person who murdered Israelis and caused damage to the security of the state can continue to enjoy its rights. From now on, the attackers should know that their terrorist actions will have implications beyond sitting in prison,” said Dery.
“This is an exceptional step but the severity of the actions of the four completely justify my decision. During these terrorist acts the attackers exploited the freedom of movement in Israel, which [they enjoy] as a result of their holding permanent residency permits, which entitle them to Israeli identity cards,” said Dery. “The residency status encompasses basic commitment and loyalty. Residency, and certainly permanent residency, is not a status that only grants rights, without obligations, and as such it also applies to obligations and commitments of those who hold it and want to continue to hold it,” he added.
The first interior minister to use his authority to revoke permanent residency status for East Jerusalem Palestinians charged with terror was Ophir Paz-Pines in 2005, when he revoked the status of four terrorists, who were responsible for a series of notorious attacks in which 35 Israelis were killed. In 2006, then interior minister Ronnie Bar-On revoked the permanent residency status of four East Jerusalem residents who had been elected to the Palestinian parliament by Hamas.
In November 2014, former interior minister Gilad Erdan revoked the permanent residency of Mohammed Nadi, who had given a ride to the suicide bomber who blew himself up in the Dolphinarium discotheque in Tel Aviv in 2001, killing 21 people and wounding 120, most of them Israelis in their teens and early twenties.