Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Knesset
MK Amir Ohana

The Knesset on Wednesday passed an amendment to the Entry into Israel Law which authorizes the Interior Minister to cancel the permanent residency of residents if they are involved in terrorism or have committed acts that constitute breach of trust against the State of Israel.

The bill, a merger of a government-sponsored bill and a proposal submitted by MK Amir Ohana (Likud), was introduced following a High Court ruling which rejected a 2006 decision by the Interior Ministry to revoke the residency status of four eastern Jerusalem Arabs who were serving in various capacities in the Palestinian Authority government, including three who had been elected to parliament on a Hamas-affiliated slate.


Then-Interior Minister Roni Bar-On told the four individuals that he would revoke their permanent residency status unless they resigned from their parliament and cabinet posts, which they refused to do. In June 2006, their residency was revoked on the grounds that they were key activists in a terrorist organization – Hamas.

The High Court ruled that the Interior Ministry did not have the authority to strip the four men of their residency status, but allotted the government six months to draft a law that would empower the state in that venue.

During Wednesday’s debate, MK Ohana said the High Court’s ruling at the time “hurt the public’s trust in the court, because the law already stated that the Interior Minister may revoke residency at his discretion, and the court said this definition was too broad. Who thinks convicted Hamas men who want to kill Israelis and destroy the State of Israel should continue receiving what the Israel tax payer has to offer?”

MK Dov Khenin (Joint Arab List) Arab List) called the legislation “bad and dangerous,” and said it creates a mechanism which is meant to deliver to the residents of eastern Jerusalem “the worst of all worlds.”

“Israel’s decision to annex eastern Jerusalem contradicts international law,” MK Khenin argued. “The residents of eastern Jerusalem live there not because they chose to be Israelis, but because it is their home. What you are actually trying to do is create a loyalty obligation for people who have no bond or loyalty to the State of Israel.”

And is that, like, a good thing? Should the state tolerate residents who are actively hostile to it?

MK Jamal Zahalka (Joint Arab List) said, “You entered eastern Jerusalem, and now you need to leave. This law is an offense. There should be a law to prevent the entry of Israeli police and authorities to eastern Jerusalem, so that in order to enter [eastern Jerusalem] you will need a passports and permits.”

The problem with some ideas is that they often work both ways… Israel could impose MK Zahalka’s proposal on eastern Jerusalem Arabs and then see what happens.

MK Esawi Frej (Meretz) said, “Since 1967 a campaign has been waged to empty eastern Jerusalem of its Palestinian residents, as demonstrated by the entry of Border Police forces to the neighborhoods, the conduct of government institutions and laws such as this one – and to hell with human rights and international law.”

“The law has been amended 30 times since it was enacted, and each amendment seeks to drive more Arabs out of eastern Jerusalem,” he stated.

The law passed with 48 for, 18 against, and 6 abstained.