Under a recently enacted law, Israel’s Interior Minister Aryeh Deri has expressed his intentions to strip the residency status of 12 Palestinians in Jerusalem, accusing them of being involved in “terror”.
The law, passed two weeks ago, gives the interior minister the power to strip the residency documents of any Palestinian on grounds of a “breach of loyalty” to Israel.
It will also apply in cases where residency status was obtained on the basis of false information, and in cases where “an individual committed a criminal act” in the view of the interior ministry.
Four of the 12 are affiliated with the Hamas political movement. They were the subject of a controversy in September 2017 when Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that Israeli authorities had no right to strip them of their residency on “breach of loyalty”, after a 10-year legal battle.
When the four were elected to the Palestinian Authority’s legislative body in 2006, Israel’s then-Interior Minister Ronnie Bar-On revoked their Jerusalem residency status, claiming a “breach of loyalty” for being members of a foreign parliament and of Hamas.
They were deported with their families to the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.
But last year, the Supreme Court ruled that the interior minister does not have the power to do so after a petition was filed by rights groups.
In response, the Israeli government enacted the bill two weeks ago, giving the minister the legal means to strip the residency documents of any Palestinian whom he deems a threat.
Fadi al-Qawasmi, a lawyer for the four parliamentarians, said Deri might not be able to prove that the four men were implicated in a “breach of loyalty”, particularly because the law is vague.
“When they revoked their residencies [10 years ago], they did not prove that they had committed a violation. How will they put them on trial retroactively?” al-Qawasmi told Al Jazeera.
The lawyer added that since the parliamentarians have no legal residence in any other country, the interior ministry may be forced to give them a special legal status, even if they were deported to the occupied West Bank.
‘illegal under international law’
In addition to the four Hamas parliamentarians, the interior minister is also considering revoking the residency status of other Palestinians in Jerusalem involved in carrying out attacks against Israelis, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz.
Rights groups have blasted the new law as racist and illegal.
“East Jerusalem is considered occupied territory under international humanitarian law (IHL) – like all other areas of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip – and its Palestinian residents are a protected civilian population,” Adalah, a Palestinian rights group in Israel, said.
“It is therefore illegal under IHL to impose upon them an obligation of loyalty to the occupying power, let alone to deny them the permanent residency status on this basis,” the statement read.
Status of Palestinians in Jerusalem
Despite Israel’s claims that occupied East Jerusalem is part of its “eternal, undivided” capital, the Palestinians who are born and live there do not hold Israeli citizenship, unlike their Jewish counterparts.
Palestinians in the city are given “permanent residency” ID cards and temporary Jordanian passports that are only used for travel purposes. They are essentially stateless, stuck in legal limbo – they are not citizens of Israel, nor are they citizens of Jordan or Palestine.
The new bill will only worsen the difficult conditions for the 420,000 Palestinians living in occupied East Jerusalem, who are treated as foreign immigrants by the state.
Since 1967, Israel has revoked the status of at least 14,000 Palestinians.
Deri, the interior minister, who was, in the past, convicted of bribery, fraud and “breach of trust”, says this law would allow him to protect the “security of Israeli citizens”.