Netanyahu Mulls Revoking Residency of Palestinians Beyond E. Jerusalem Separation Barrier

The prime minister raised the possibility at a recent security cabinet meeting; ministers note the 'dramatic political implications' of the measure.

The separation barrier near the Shoafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem.
Emil Salman

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu raised the possibility of revoking the Israeli residency of some East Jerusalem Palestinians during a recent security cabinet meeting, according to sources in the prime minister's bureau.

The remarks, which were made at one of the meetings convened two weeks ago to discuss the escalating violence in East Jerusalem, referred to Palestinians residing beyond the separation barrier. The prime minister said that the possibility of revoking their resident status should be considered, and called for a separate meeting to discuss the matter. The comments were first reported by Channel 2 journalist Amit Segal. 

Officials in the prime minister's bureau said that during the cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said the Palestinians in those neighborhoods do not fulfill the duties of Israeli residents but do enjoy the rights that the State of Israel gives them. He further noted that there is no law enforcement in those areas.

A source who took part in the meeting told Haaretz that the ministers in attendance were surprised by Netanyahu's remarks, but a discussion did not ensue. "There is no such process to revoke the residency or citizenship of thousands of people," the source said. 

According to the Channel 2 report, during the meeting Netanyahu said that the current situation in the neighborhoods beyond the separation barrier cannot continue. Ministers in attendance noted that the measure would have "dramatic political implications."

This is the first time the prime minister or anyone in his party has raised the possibility of differentiating between a part of East Jerusalem and the rest of the city. 

Last week, Haaretz reported that top Jerusalem municipal officials and city council members heard some far-reaching proposals aimed at separating the two parts of the capital.

Among the ideas that were raised and seriously discussed by Mayor Nir Barkat and other officials in the city was a scheme that would limit movement from the predominantly Palestinian East Jerusalem, to the western part. Exceptions would be made for so-called essential personnel who would be allowed to pass relatively easily through checkpoints on their way to work.

It was unclear whether the scheme was to be implemented soon or if it was being presented as an option for the future.

Last week, Jerusalem police erected a concrete barrier between the Palestinian Jabel Mukaber neighborhood and the Jewish Armon Hantaziv neighborhood to protect residents of the latter from firebomb and rock attacks. During a security cabinet meeting on the matter, an argument broke between ministers after which Netanyahu asked to see an aerial shot of the area where the wall was being erected. After being briefed on the situation,  the prime minister ordered a halt to the installation of the barrier and asked that alternatives be examined.