Israel has agreed to reconsider its decision to deport four Hamas representatives from Jerusalem if they declare that they do not represent the radical Islamist movement and cut off their ties with it, an Israeli security official told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
The four men are legislators Mahmoud Abu Tir, Ahmed Attoun, Mohammed Totah and former minister Khaled Abu Arafeh.
They have reportedly accepted the Israeli condition and are now said to be willing to make a public statement in this regard so that they could stay in Jerusalem.
The Jerusalem police had confiscated the Israeli-issued ID cards of the four men after the Ministry of Interior revoked their status as permanent residents of the city, paving the way for their expulsion.
The official explained that the decision to reconsider the deportations was largely designed to "boost" the standing of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and undermine Hamas.
"The Hamas officials have apparently chosen to stay in Jerusalem with their families and enjoy all privileges as residents of Israel," the security official told the Post. "Their readiness to distance themselves from Hamas is an important step that could lead to the cancellation of the deportations."
He added that the decision to deport the four men would be canceled once they sign a written statement disowning Hamas.
"We want an unambiguous statement that leaves no room for double-talk," he said. "We want to send a message to the Palestinians that if they renounce Hamas and terrorism they stand to benefit."
One of the legislators, Abu Tir, who was recently released from Israeli prison after serving a 50-month-sentence, was instructed by the Jerusalem police to leave the city by last Friday midnight.
However, the decision to deport him was postponed in the last minute following the intervention of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the US Administration and the European Union.
Last week Abbas, in an unprecedented move, summoned the Hamas officials
to his office in Ramallah twice and urged them to accept Israel¹s
condition and announce that they do not represent Hamas.
Following the meetings, the Hamas representatives told reporters that
they represented their voters in Jerusalem and not Hamas or any other
party or organization.
The three Hamas legislators were on Hamas's Change and Reform list that
contested and won the January 2006 parliamentary election. The fourth
official, Abu Arafeh, was appointed Minister for Jerusalem Affairs in
the Hamas government.
They were all arrested by the IDF following the abduction of IDF soldier
Gilad Schalit, but have since been released.
The decision to rescind their permanent residency status in Jerusalem
has drawn sharp condemnations from both Hamas and the PA leadership. The
Palestinians fear that the decision could pave the way for the
expulsion of many other Palestinians from Jerusalem.