Interior Minister Gilad Erdan on Sunday revoked the permanent residency of an East Jerusalem man who drove a suicide bomber to his destination in 2001 to carry out a deadly attack.
At the same time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would draft a bill seeking to do the same to East Jerusalemites who incite against Israel.
The move by Erdan came a day after he said he was reviewing the possibility of revoking the Israeli residencies of East Jerusalem Arabs who support terror. Netanyahu on Saturday was expected to advance legislation aimed at revoking the residency permits and social benefits of East Jerusalem Arabs who engage in terrorism or other nationalistically motivated crimes, such as incitement to violence against the state.
Mohammed Nadi served 10 years in prison for transporting a suicide bomber to Tel Aviv’s Dolphinarium nightclub on June 1, 2001, in an attack that killed 21 teenagers and injured 132 people. He was convicted of assisting homicide, assisting in causing severe bodily harm, and assisting illegal entry of a Palestinian. On Sunday, Erdan revoked Nadi’s residency, which in effect prevents Nadi from receiving social benefits, health insurance, and costs him his Israeli identification card.
“Under these circumstances, given the severity of your actions and blatant breach of trust as a resident of the State of Israel, I have decided to exercise my authority and cancel your permanent residency in Israel,” Erdan wrote in a letter to Nadi.
Speaking at a cabinet meeting on Sunday morning, Netanyahu said he had instructed Cabinet Secretary Avi Mandelblit and the interior minister to draft a bill to “revoke the rights from residents who participate in terror or incitement against Israel.”
The prime minister said the “important” legislation “will exact a price from the terrorists and inciters, stone-throwers and those who hurl firebombs, and will be complementary to the house demolitions to deter the terrorists and inciters.”
The interior minister added that recently “a wave of terror and incitement” has swept Israel, assisted by Israeli residents who “carry out attacks, assist them, and justify them, and even incite others to commit crimes and murders.”
“These people cannot continue to enjoy a permanent status of Israeli residency, and I will use all of my power to cancel their residency and prevent them from receiving all benefits that this residency offers.”
On Saturday, Erdan said he had asked his staff to “advise me on how my authority may be widened… to nullify the permanent residency and accompanying social rights of East Jerusalem Arabs who promote terror and incite violence.”
The move was promptly supported by Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, who said that Israel should use the threat of deportation and the revocation of residency permits and social rights as a deterrent.
Shortly afterward, the prime minister said that it was “out of the question” for terrorists to receive social benefits, and was expected to spearhead a bill to allow the revoking of residency for those involved in nationalist activities, as well as incitement to violence.
While theoretically possible, changing or introducing a law to allow for such action has been described by experts as ethically problematic and a threat to freedom of speech.
In 2011, the Knesset passed a law proposed by Yisrael Beytenu MK David Rotem that allows the Supreme Court to revoke the citizenship of Israelis convicted of terrorism or espionage. At the time, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman praised the move as a step toward “contending with the phenomenon of exploiting democracy in order to subvert it.”
That law, however, does not apply to people who only speak out against the state.
The initiative has been described as a radical threat to freedom of expression by Debbie Gild-Hayo, director of policy advocacy at the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.
“As is known, the importance of freedom of expression lies precisely in protecting extreme and controversial expressions,” she said earlier this month.
Israel annexed what had been the Jordanian-controlled East Jerusalem and Old City after 1967’s Six Day War and offered permanent residence 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.