Opinion |

East Jerusalem Residents Deserve Better Service From the Population Authority

The Interior Ministry’s failure to provide decent service in East Jerusalem suggests a disregard and disrespect for the Arab residents of Israel’s capital

Moshe Arens
Moshe Arens
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
A line forming outside the Population, Immigration and Border Authority office in East Jerusalem, May 2017.
A line forming outside the Population, Immigration and Border Authority office in East Jerusalem, May 2017.Credit: Emil salman
Moshe Arens
Moshe Arens

Fifty-one years of neglect of East Jerusalem have bred squalor, violence, juvenile delinquency and terrorism in the neighborhoods of that part of our capital city. Late, but hopefully not too late, the government has allocated a substantial amount for spending on basic infrastructure there. This will take time and a lot of money. But what could be supplied quickly and easily are the basic services to which the residents are entitled. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

A case in point is the Interior Ministry’s Population, Immigration and Border Authority, which is supposed to provide services to all citizens and residents of Israel who need official documents such as identity cards and passports.

Most Israelis can now access these services through the internet, but not the residents of East Jerusalem. They must report to the agency’s offices in East Jerusalem to obtain the required services from the authority’s civil servants. Obedient public servants they do not seem to be.

A recent article by Nir Hasson in Haaretz described the shameful conditions outside these offices: a crowd of people jostling one another, being humiliated by the security guards and unable to find out when their turn might come. It was an eye-opener to most Israelis — and even to most residents of West Jerusalem — who have become used to receiving courteous service from the population authority, service that is evidently denied to the Arab residents of Israel’s capital.

As a result MK Yoav Kish, the chairman of the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee, convened the committee last week to discuss the matter. The session was chaired by MK Benny Begin. The head of the Population, Immigration and Border Authority did not honor the meeting with his presence. He was represented by Naif Hinu, a senior agency official. Hinu told the committee the authority was negotiating with the city to rent an additional building but said it would take at least six months for the new offices to open. In other words, in the meantime nothing could be done to improve the services the agency is obliged to provide to the residents of East Jerusalem.

The following day, the High Court of Justice heard a petition regarding the conditions at the agency’s East Jerusalem bureau. The justices were informed that it would take at least half a year to open another agency office. The court said it expected the agency to use initiative and creativity to give the highest priority to measure to improve what the justices termed a completely unsatisfactory situation.

Of course there is no excuse for the absence of the decent and courteous service that the authority is obliged to provide to all residents of Jerusalem. It reflects a lack of regard and respect for the Arab residents of the city.

No doubt there are a number of measures that could be taken to provide immediate relief. As suggested by Begin, applicants could be directed to agency offices in other parts of the city. Perhaps a contractor could be found to erect a large tent, equipped with power, heating and communications equipment, that could serve as temporary offices. The interior minister should step in and take control of the situation. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.

Subscribe today and save 40%

Already signed up? LOG IN


Yair Lapid.

Yair Lapid Is the Most Israeli of All

An El Al jet sits on the tarmac at John C. Munro International Airport in Hamilton, Thursday, in 2003.

El Al to Stop Flying to Toronto, Warsaw and Brussels

An anti-abortion protester holds a cross in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.

Roe v. Wade: The Supreme Court Leaves a Barely United States

A young Zeschke during down time, while serving with the Wehrmacht in Scandinavia.

How a Spanish Beach Town Became a Haven for Nazis

Ayelet Shaked.

What's Ayelet Shaked's Next Move?

A Palestinian flag is taken down from a building by Israeli authorities after being put up by an advocacy group that promotes coexistence between Palestinians and Israelis, in Ramat Gan, Israel earlier this month

Israel-Palestine Confederation: A Response to Eric Yoffie