Israel Parliament passes controversial ‘breach of trust’ residency laws

Israel Parliament passes controversial ‘breach of trust’ residency laws

The Knesset [official website, in Hebrew] on Wednesday passed [press release] an amendment to its “Entry into Israel” law authorizing the minister of Interior to cancel the permanent residency status of individuals suspected of involvement in terrorist activities or committing acts constituting “breach of trust against the State of Israel.”

The bill was a response to a ruling of the Israel High Court of Justice overriding the Ministry of the Interior [official website, in Hebrew] decision in 2006 to revoke the residency status of four east Jerusalem Palestinians who served in various roles in the Palestinian Authority government.

Three of these individuals—Muhammad Abu-Teir, Ahmad Attoun and Muhammad Totah—were elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006 on an alleged Hamas-affiliated ballot, while the fourth, Khaled Abu-Arafeh, was appointed the Palestinian Authority’s minister of Jerusalem affairs.

Then Interior Minister Roni Bar-On threatened to strip the individuals of their permanent residency status unless they agreed to resign their parliament and cabinet seats. The men refused to refused to do so and in June 2006, the Interior Ministry revoked their permanent residency status on the grounds that “they were key activists in the institutions of a terrorist organization, Hamas.”

Over 10 years later in September 2017, the High Court of Justice ruled that the Interior Ministry had no authority [TOI report] to strip these men of their residency status, with a caveat permitting the government to draft a law that would give it that authority. The Court gave the government six months to draft the law now passed in the Knesset as Amendment 30.

Several months prior to that ruling, the court similarly recognized [JURIST report] the ties of several Jerusalem-born Palestinians, calling them “native-born residents” ordering the government to restore the residency of a 59-year-old Jerusalem-born Palestinian who came to the US in his youth but has since returned to Jerusalem. Since Israel’s invasion of east Jerusalem in 1967, more than 14,000 Palestinians have been deprived of their residency rights.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri welcomed this new law as enabling him protect the security of the citizens of Israel by taking action against individuals who plan to carry out attacks against the state of Israel. Deri himself was previously convicted [Al Jazeera report] of bribery, fraud and “breach of trust.”

Opponents called the legislation “bad and dangerous,” with some calling it an “extremely racist piece of legislation.” Member of Knesset (MK) Esawi Frej (Meretz) added:

Since 1967 a campaign has been waged to empty east 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 east Jerusalem.

Forty-eight MKs voted in favor of the legislation, while 18 opposed it. Six lawmakers abstained from voting.