The legislation follows earlier attempts to remove social security benefits and family reunification rights from Palestinians in Jerusalem. “This time they are going after the right to residency,” Sani Khoury, a lawyer in Jerusalem, told Arab News.
The draft law approved by the Israeli parliament’s legislative committee allows the government to withdraw residency from any Palestinian deemed by Israel to be “involved in terrorism,” whether they have been convicted of a crime or not.
Right-wing Knesset members appear to be in a race to see who can sponsor the most racist law against Palestinians, Khoury said. “Note that they did not withdraw social benefits or the residency rights of Yigal Amir, the killer of former prime minister Yitshaq Rabin.”
Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1967 and the Golan Heights in 1980. People who live there may remain if they abide by certain Israeli administrative procedures.
Palestinians with permanent residency cannot lose their right to live in Jerusalem provided the city is the center of their lives, Hanna Issa, a lawyer in Jerusalem who specializes in international law, told Arab News. “But if they are away from Jerusalem for seven years, or if they get residency elsewhere, this right can be withdrawn.”
Even living in nearby Ramallah or Bethlehem constitutes not living in Jerusalem and can be used against Palestinians to withdraw their residency, Issa said.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel has documented the cases of nearly 15,000 Palestinians in Jerusalem who have lost their residency rights because of these administrative orders.
The new draft law appears to be aimed at thwarting an attempt by four Palestinians from Jerusalem to have their administrative banishment from the city overturned by the Israeli Supreme Court.
The former Palestinian Minister for Jerusalem Affairs, Khaled Abu Arafeh, and three elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council — Ahmad Ottwan, Mohammed Totah and Mohammad Abu Tier — were banned from Jerusalem shortly after the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections. Their crime, according to the Israeli prosecutor, was that by taking part in the elections on behalf of the pro-Hamas Islamists Change and Reform List, they showed that they were “not loyal to the state of Israel.”
The four men have been arrested three times since 2006, and are engaged in a legal battle to have the ban reversed.
Abu Arafeh lives in a temporary home in Ramallah, and has been unable to travel or attend family events in Jerusalem or elsewhere.
“My son is graduating from university this summer in Jordan and my daughter will graduate from high school in Jerusalem’s Beit Hanina neighborhood, and I will not be able to attend,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Israeli government has also approved a draft law punishing the Palestinian government for making payments to the families of prisoners and those who have died resisting occupation. The new law will cut tax revenues allocated to the Palestinians by the same amount as those payments. The Palestinian government has called the law “theft of Palestinian money.”