EU: Jerusalem residency law could make Palestinians’ status ‘precarious’

Legislation passed Wednesday allows Israel’s interior minister to revoke residency of East Jerusalem residents involved in terrorism or espionage

A Jerusalem youth carries the Hamas flag (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
A Jerusalem youth carries the Hamas flag (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

The European Union on Friday warned that a new Israeli law that allows stripping East Jerusalem Palestinians of their residency status in the city if they are involved in terrorism or treason would make the lives of Palestinians “even more precarious than it already is today.”

The Knesset on Wednesday enacted the law, which permits the interior minister to revoke the permanent residency status of East Jerusalem residents who are found to have committed actions constituting a “breach of trust” against the State of Israel.

The law applies to East Jerusalem residents with ties to terrorist groups, or who are convicted of terrorism or treason offenses, according to the definition of “breach of trust” laid out in the law. It would also likely apply to East Jerusalem Palestinians who have attacked IDF soldiers, which Israeli law defines as a terror offense.

In its statement, issued by the EU’s External Action Service, the organization emphasized it “rejects terrorism in all its forms,” and noted that “the crimes set out in this legislation are very serious.”

Even so, it added, “the new law could make the residency status of Palestinians in East Jerusalem, a protected population under international humanitarian law, even more precarious than it already is today. The new law could be used to further compromise the Palestinian presence in East Jerusalem, which would further undermine the prospects of a two-state solution.”

“In line with international law, the European Union does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967, including East Jerusalem, and does not consider them to be part of Israel’s territory, irrespective of their legal status under domestic Israeli law,” it added.

The EU further promises to “closely monitor if and how this new law is applied to Palestinians in East Jerusalem.”

A Hamas flag seen at the Aqsa children’s festival on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City on April 6, 2013. (Sliman Khader/Flash90)

The law came in the wake of a High Court of Justice ruling in September that the Interior Ministry did not have the right to revoke the permanent residency status of four Palestinian parliamentarians with ties to the Hamas terror group, which the ministry had done 10 years earlier. In its decision, the court also stalled the implementation of its ruling for six months, in order to give the Knesset the opportunity to pass legislation that might grant the ministry the authority to carry out its decision.

The new law appears to apply only to longstanding East Jerusalem residents, namely those who, upon their birth, had a parent with permanent residency, or residents who have held permanent residency for over 15 years. An interior minister’s decision to strip residency may be appealed, the law says.

Israel annexed what had been the Jordanian-controlled East Jerusalem and the Old City shortly after conquering the area in the 1967 Six Day War. It offered permanent residency status to the area’s inhabitants. East Jerusalem residents generally have Israeli papers that enable them to travel freely about the city and enjoy the social and welfare benefits of Israeli citizens.

The law would also apply to Golan Heights residents who hold permanent residency rather than citizenship, a category that applies to some Druze residents of the Heights who have not yet chosen to take on Israeli citizenship.

In his opening remarks upon presenting his bill, Likud MK Amir Ohana said it was meant to target Hamas members living in East Jerusalem who are eligible for Israeli welfare benefits.

Interior ministers have for several years been taking action to revoke the residency of terror accomplices and suspects involved in terror attacks or organizations, as well as their relatives.

In January 2017, Deri said he had ordered his office to revoke the residency of 10 relatives of a Palestinian terrorist who had killed four soldiers in a truck-ramming attack in Jerusalem. A year earlier, Deri revoked the residency rights of four Palestinians charged with taking part in deadly attacks in Jerusalem.

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