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PM said to consider revoking East Jerusalemites’ residency status

Ministers reportedly criticize proposal which would affect some 80,000 Arab denizens and effectively split capital

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Benjamin Netanyahu, center, with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, second right, and police officials while touring East Jerusalem on September 16, 2015. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Benjamin Netanyahu, center, with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, second right, and police officials while touring East Jerusalem on September 16, 2015. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering revoking the permanent residency status of East Jerusalemite Arabs in a measure aimed at halting an ongoing spate of terror attacks, many of which have emanated from Arab neighborhoods of the city.

Netanyahu raised the idea in a security cabinet meeting two weeks ago, according to a Sunday report from Channel 2 news.

The proposal came as the security cabinet passed a slew of measures designed to prevent further Palestinian attacks in the current wave of unrest.

“We need to examine the possibility of canceling their residency. There needs to be a discussion about it,” Netanyahu reportedly said.

The proposal would affect some 80,000 people, according to the report.

The idea was met with surprise by some in the cabinet who saw the move as a step toward dividing Jerusalem through ceding control over Arab neighborhoods.

“That is a far-reaching decision which requires a referendum, because it would involve giving up territory,” Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz reportedly said in response to Netanyahu.

Israel captured East Jerusalem in 1967 and extended its sovereignty to the area in 1980, granting the populace a permanent resident status that gives them many of the same rights as citizenship.

A number of measures taken over the last several weeks to cut off Arab neighborhoods of the city have been criticized as redividing the capital.

Five of the six concrete slabs placed between Jerusalem's (Jewish) East Talpiot and (Arab) Jabel Mukaber neighborhoods, October 18, 2015 In the foreground, concrete blocks at the entrance to Jabel Mukaber. (Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Five of the six concrete slabs placed between Jerusalem’s (Jewish) East Talpiot and (Arab) Jabel Mukaber neighborhoods, October 18, 2015. In the foreground, concrete blocks at the entrance to Jabel Mukaber. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Last week Netanyahu ordered a halt to the placement of concrete slabs between Jewish areas and East Jerusalem neighborhoods, after several MKs criticized the construction of a temporary wall as a de facto division of the unified city.

Netanyahu’s decision came after authorities already erected parts of a planned 300-meter long wall between the predominantly Jewish area of Armon Hanatziv, also called East Talpiot, and the adjacent southeastern Arab neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber, in a bid to stem a series of terrorist and Molotov cocktail attacks carried out in the area over the past weeks.

The move followed the placing of concrete blocks and temporary checkpoints on roads leading out of many Arab East Jerusalem neighborhoods.

While a number of other new security measures have been passed in recent weeks, there has been no further discussion on the proposal to revoke citizenship, Channel 2 said.

A government source told Haaretz that no concrete plans have yet been drawn up. “There is no such process to revoke the residency or citizenship of thousands of people,” they said.

East Jerusalem residents are generally allowed to travel freely about the city and enjoy the social benefits awarded to Israeli citizens.

They are entitled to all the insurance benefits of Israeli citizens and can vote in municipal — but not national — elections.

However, Jerusalem’s City Hall is reportedly considering measures that would require Arab East Jerusalem residents to obtain papers to enter the western part of the city, according to Haaretz.

Two weeks ago Interior Minister Silvan Shalom said he planned to revoke residency status of 19 East Jerusalemites accused of involvement in terror attacks.

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.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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