Court overturns decision to revoke residency permits for Hamas lawmakers
Decision by former interior minister 11 years ago to revoke residency permits of 4 east Jerusalem Arabs after being elected to Palestinian parliament as Hamas reps struck down; judge says 'disloyalty' not grounds for revoking permits.
Israel’s High Court of Justice overturned an 11-year-old decision by the former Interior Minister Roni Bar-On to revoke the residency permits of four east Jerusalem Arabs following their election to the Palestinian parliament as representatives of Hamas.
Shorty after the elections, which were held throughout the Palestinian Authority and Gaza in addition to east Jerusalem, the four were arrested by Israeli authorities and Bar-On presented them with an ultimatum: Resign from their new positions or forfeit the residency permits allowing them to reside in east Jerusalem.
All four refused the ultimatum, and in June 2006, Bar-On made good on the threat, citing the four were "key activists in the institutions of Hamas, a terror organization."
Following their arrest, the group appealed the decision to Israel's High Court of Justice, and in 2008 the foursome announced they had resigned from the Palestinian parliament and asked then-Minister of Interior Meir Sheetrit to reinstate their residency. The request was denied, and has subsequently been refused by every minister of interior to serve since.
Writing for the majority decision to overturn the revocation, Justice Uzi Fogelman said "Israeli law does not grant the minister of the interior the authority to revoke a residence permit simply on the grounds of 'disloyalty.'"
"When it comes to east Jerusalem residents", he added, "the impact of revoking a permit is much harsher than it is on 'regular' (non-citizen) residents, who received their permit as a result of immigration. The affinity (natives—ed.) of east Jerusalem posses towards their place of residence is not comparable to that of an immigrant. Many of them were born and raised in eastern Jerusalem and have been living there for decades, as have their parents, and often their grandparents."
Judge Fogelman stressed the decision should not be viewed as a blow to the state's war on terror.
"It is not lost on me that the petitioners were elected to represent the terror organization Hamas, which denies Israel's right to exist and strives to wipe it out in an armed conflict. It goes without saying that Israel should not be assisting these efforts," he said.
"But this decision pertains to the legal status of all east Jerusalem residents, and not exclusively to the issue in question. The decision is not meant to weaken the efforts of the war on terror, but even that war must be fought in accordance with the proscriptions of the law.
"The basic principle is that even in the war on terror the state of Israel limits itself to acting within the boundaries set by the judiciary. Protecting the rule of law and recognizing individual liberties is an important point on the agenda of Israeli democracy," the justice concluded.