Court rules state had no authority to revoke Hamas lawmakers’ residency
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Court rules state had no authority to revoke Hamas lawmakers’ residency

10 years after move, judges say new law is required in order to justify expelling 4 East Jerusalem parliamentarians

Hamas lawmaker Mohammed Totah (R) and Palestinian Authority minister for Jerusalem affairs Khaled Abu Arafeh (L), are seen at the Jerusalem District Court ahead of a hearing on February 15, 2012. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
Hamas lawmaker Mohammed Totah (R) and Palestinian Authority minister for Jerusalem affairs Khaled Abu Arafeh (L), are seen at the Jerusalem District Court ahead of a hearing on February 15, 2012. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

The High Court of Justice ruled Wednesday that the Interior Ministry did not have the right to revoke the permanent residency status of four Palestinian parliamentarians from East Jerusalem with ties to the Hamas terror group, 10 years after their residency permits were revoked for “breach of trust.”

Three of the East Jerusalem residents, Muhammad Abu-Teir, Ahmad Attoun and Muhammad Totah, were elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006 on behalf of Hamas’s Change and Reform bloc, while the fourth, Khaled Abu-Arafeh, was appointed as the Palestinian Authority’s minister of Jerusalem affairs.

Following their election, then-interior minister Roni Bar-On revoked their residency status on the grounds that they were members of Hamas, and the four were expelled to the West Bank.

Then Kadima MK Roni Bar-on attends a meeting of the Foreign Affairs and Security Committee at the Knesset on March 3, 2011. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

Although they appealed the decision, subsequent interior ministers refused to restore their residency status.

In its ruling, the High Court said that the interior minister lacks the authority to revoke a residency permit for breach of trust and that the move was overly drastic.

The court said that Palestinians parliamentarians’ residency status could not be revoked under the Entry into Israel Law, which governs the entry of non-Israeli citizens into the country, saying that the law applies only to those entering Israel and not those already already in the country, like the residents of East Jerusalem.

The High Court also ruled that its decision to cancel the revocation of these four permanent residency permits would not take effect for the next six months, in order to give the Knesset the opportunity to pass legislation that would give it the authority to revoke their residency status.

The Israeli Arab legal rights group Adalah, which had appealed Bar-On’s decision, praised the High Court’s decision.

“The Supreme Court’s majority opinion delivered an important message: It is not permitted to revoke the residency of East Jerusalem Palestinians in violation of the rule of law while gravely harming their constitutional rights on the vague assertion of ‘breach of loyalty.’ It is unfortunate that this ruling was made only after more than a decade, during which time the petitioners’ rights were brutally violated,” the group said in a statement.

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