Hamas members in East Jerusalem could lose residency under new law

Interior minister now permitted to cancel permits over ‘breach of trust’ to the State of Israel

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Palestinians wave Hamas flags as they celebrate the prisoner swap deal reached between Israel and Hamas in East Jerusalem. Oct 18, 2011.(Kobi Gideon / Flash90)
Palestinians wave Hamas flags as they celebrate the prisoner swap deal reached between Israel and Hamas in East Jerusalem. Oct 18, 2011.(Kobi Gideon / Flash90)

The Knesset on Wednesday enacted a law permitting 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” to the State of Israel.

A government bill, and a similar proposal by Likud MK Amir Ohana, sailed through the plenum in second and third readings with 48 in favor, 16 opposed, and six abstentions.

The new law will 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.”

It 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, which it had done 10 years earlier 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 residency status.

The Knesset 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 decision to strip residency may be appealed, the law says.

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

In his opening remarks upon presenting his bill, 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 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 revoking the citizenship of Israelis convicted of terrorism or espionage.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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