Israeli Interior Minister Arye Dery announced Tuesday that he will revoke the residency status of 12 relatives of Fadi al-Qanbar, who rammed his truck into a group of soldiers in Jerusalem on Sunday.
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The family members received summons to the Population and Immigration Authority Tuesday morning indicating that their residency would be revoked. The letter said that the decision had been made due to the attack and that the family is "suspected of having connections to ISIS" and are a security risk "as long as they remain in Israel."
The mother's summons also said that her residency was being revoked based on a false statement she made at the time she received her status some 30 years ago, when she claimed that she was not marrying as an act of bigamy.
Previous interior ministers have tried on numerous occasions to punish the families of assailants by stripping them of their legal status in Israel. However, the High Court of Justice has stymied most of these efforts. The law does not allow revocation of residency status as a deterrent measure.
Hamoked, the organization providing the family with legal defense, responded to the Interior Ministry's summons, saying that the family did not intend to attend a hearing on such short notice.
In the attack, in the southern neighborhood of Armon Hanatziv, four were killed and some 15 others were wounded. Fadi al-Qanbar was a resident of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabal Mukkaber.
The aim of Dery's unusual move is to deter Palestinians from committing attacks because they could result in the loss of their relatives' permanent or provisional status as well as other rights.
Until now, the only Palestinians who have been stripped of their status were assailants who survived attacks, or the spouses of dead assailants who were in the process of applying for permanent residence and meanwhile had family reunification status.
Dery's move would set a precedent because Qanbar’s mother received her status through his father, who is also a permanent resident of Jerusalem. A lawyer told Haaretz it was unclear if she had completed the process and is already a permanent resident or still has family reunification status.
The latter is an interim status accorded to Palestinians from the West Bank who are related to an Israeli citizen or a resident of East Jerusalem, and have themselves applied for citizenship or residency. It allows them to reside in Israel and to work until the application process is completed.
On Monday Minister Dery, who is also head of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, asked MK Yoav Ben-Zur at a party meeting to advance legislation that Dery initiated months ago, aimed at revoking residency status without a hearing.
In a statement Dery said, “This decision signals a new era against terror and terrorists with a status that they exploit to carry out terrible attacks against civilians. From now on there will be no tolerance shown to anyone involved in attacks against Israel, including their relatives.
"From now on," he said, "anyone who plots, plans or considers carrying out an attack will know that his family will pay a heavy price for his deed. The consequences will be harsh and far-reaching, like the decision I made regarding the mother and relatives of the terrorist who perpetrated the attack in Armon Hanatziv in Jerusalem.”
In recent years, the government has frozen thousands of requests by West Bank Palestinians to obtain Jerusalem residency status through the family reunification process.
A year ago, the state sought to stop the family reunification process undertaken by the wife of Ghassan Abu Jamal, who perpetrated an attack in a synagogue in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood in 2014 and was killed at the scene by police. According to law, a wife of is not eligible to continue the process the moment her husband dies. Thus, the Supreme Court would not intervene if the state sought to strip her of her family reunification status. The residency status of their two children was not revoked, however, because they were born in Jerusalem to Abu Jamal, a resident of Jabel Mukkaber.
The state tried in one instance to stop the family reunification process of the sister-in-law of the Palestinian who perpetrated the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva shooting, in Jerusalem in 2008. However, the court overturned the move and allowed the process to continue.
In other cases, the assailants themselves were stripped of their legal status, but their relatives were not, as in the case of Bilal Abu Ghanem, who survived an attack he committed on a Jerusalem bus in 2015.
Israel also revoked the residency status of three youths who, in 2015, threw stones at passing vehicles, causing the death of Alexander Levlovitz.
The High Court is still hearing a number of related cases. The justices have yet to rule on a case involving stripping the residency of Hamas members of the Palestinian parliament who are from Jerusalem.
The law allows punishing innocent people by demolishing their homes as a means of deterrence, according to emergency regulations from the British Mandate period, but there are no legal grounds at present for revoking residency status as a deterrent measure, says attorney Anat Golan of Hamoked – Center for the Defense of the Individual, which has filed a number of petitions to the High Court concerning such issues.
“The argument that the state has used until today [in such cases],” she adds, “is a security-related argument because that is what the law allows.”