On March 7, Israel passed a law giving the Minister of the Interior the power to revoke the permanent residency status of Palestinians living in East Jerusalem if they commit a “breach of trust.”
Israel annexed East Jerusalem shortly after occupying the Jordanian-owned land during the Six Days War of 1967 and offered permanent residency status to the Palestinians living there. Most Palestinians in East Jerusalem do not have full Israeli citizenship, but rather have papers allowing them to move freely about the city and enroll in Israeli welfare. This new law allows this status to be revoked for a few reasons. The main reason is for the above stated “breach of trust.” This is mainly aimed at those who have connections with terrorist organizations such as Hamas. The catalyst for the law was a ruling by the Israeli Supreme Court that the Minister of the Interior did not have this power to revoke permanent resident status of four Palestinian parliamentarians who had ties to Hamas. The law also allows for the removal of permanent residence status if it was originally issued under false pretenses or the resident commits a crime. Once someone’s residency status has been revoked, the government has the power to deport that person.
Raffuol Roffa, director for the Society of St. Yves Catholic Center for Human Rights, said that, “Under international law, East Jerusalem is occupied territory, and the Palestinians living in East Jerusalem […] are under occupation. So this law would require people under occupation to be loyal to the occupying power. Clearly this is contrary to international law.” The Society of St. Yves works with the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem to provide legal defense for the poor and marginalized.
The External Action Service of the European Union also warned, “the new law could make the residency status of Palestinians in East Jerusalem, a protected population under international humanitarian law, even more precarious than it already is today. The new law could be used to further compromise the Palestinian presence in East Jerusalem, which would further undermine the prospects of a two-state solution.” Lawmakers who drafted the law claim that it is solely aimed at removing terrorists from Israeli welfare benefits.
This law comes on the heels of a few other controversies over the past month. In late February, a law allowing for the confiscation of Church land under certain circumstances prompted widespread protests from Christians in Israel. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher was even closed for a few days in protest. This dispute revolved mainly around Church property being used for commercial purposes and the taxation of said properties. With these controversies and the decision by the U.S. to move their embassy to Jerusalem, the Holy City is in a period of even greater tension than usual.