Hamas members in East Jerusalem could lose residency under new bill

Proposal clears its initial vote; would allow interior minister to cancel permits over ‘breach of trust’ to the State of Israel

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

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

The Knesset on Wednesday advanced a bill that would allow the interior minister to cancel the permanent residency for East Jerusalem residents who are found to have committed actions constituting a “breach of trust” to the State of Israel.

Likud MK Amir Ohana’s bill — cleared in a preliminary vote of 63 against 17, with one abstention — would give Interior Minister Aryeh Deri the authority to strip the residency of Palestinians with ties to terrorist groups, convicted terrorists, would-be attackers, or those convicted of treason, according to the proposed legal definition of “breach of trust.”

This would also likely apply to East Jerusalem Palestinians who have attacked IDF soldiers, which Israeli law defines as a terror offense.

A Hamas flag seen at the Aqsa children’s festival on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City. April 06, 2013 (Photo credit: Sliman Khader/FLASH90)

The proposal came after the High Court of Justice in September ruled 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, 10 years after their residency permits were canceled for “breach of trust.”

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 would grant the ministry the authority to revoke their residency status.

Speaking ahead of the preliminary vote, Joint (Arab) List Ahmad Tibi said revoking the residency permits would be tantamount to a “war crime” and “forcible transfer,” as it would require the East Jerusalem residents to vacate their homes and leave the city.

Israel annexed what had been the Jordanian-controlled East Jerusalem and Old City after 1967’s Six Day War and 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 benefits awarded to Israeli citizens.

The bill would also apply to Golan Heights residents who hold permanent residency rather than citizenship.

In his opening remarks, Ohana said the bill was targeting Hamas members living in East Jerusalem who are eligible for Israeli welfare benefits.

Deputy Interior Minister Meshulam Nahari said the Interior Ministry would submit its own version of the bill in three months’ time. Should the ministry take more time than that, Ohana’s bill would be then be advanced, he said.

Interior ministers have for several years been taking action to revoke the residency of terror accomplices and suspects involved in terror activities, 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.

In 2011, the Knesset passed a law proposed by Yisrael Beytenu MK David Rotem that allows for the revocation the citizenship of Israelis convicted of terrorism or espionage.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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