Voices from across the political spectrum are lashing out against the idea of revoking residency permits from some east Jerusalem Arabs, a suggestion which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly raised in a security cabinet meeting two weeks ago. Mainstream interpretation of the idea is that the suggestion was raised in response to the recent wave of terror, much of which has emerged from those east Jerusalem neighborhoods situated beyond the security barrier.
"The problem that the government is dealing with is in two areas: the Shuafat refugee camp and Kafer Akeb, " explains Dr Amnon Ramon, a researcher at the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies. "The big problem in these areas is that they are in no-man's land," he continues, asserting that there is no law and order. "These are areas which have become centers of crime, gangs, drugs and weapons trafficking and since 1967, when Israel took these areas, it hasn't dealt with the issue."
He notes that on the Palestinian side of the security barrier there is freedom of movement from the West Bank, thus many of the residents there are already not Israeli residents. "Some of the terrorists have come out of there so the government is debating what to do with this very serious problem," he continues, but dismisses the residency revocation suggestion as unrealistic. "It's very hard to legally revoke residency from even one person, so to do it to tens of thousands of people would be impossible," he opines, noting that it would require a vote by 80 MKs in favor, or a referendum.
"I don't see that happening and you clearly can't do it without a partner on the other side to take the steering wheel, or it will be anarchy."
According to Dr. Ramon, immediate steps that need to be taken by the Israeli government pertain to investment in the residents of east Jerusalem. "They need to provide them with services, in social infrastructure, education, welfare," he stresses, describing living conditions in Shuafat refugee camp as "fourth world."
"In Shuafat refugee camp they learn in the kitchen of a converted apartment that became a school and there is hardly water or electricity - then several hundred meters away are the fancy schools of Pisgat Ze'ev and French Hill. A Marshall Plan is needed in east Jerusalem," he concludes.
Both right-wing commentator and lawyer Nadav HaEtzni and Aviv Taterski of the left-wing NGO Ir Amim agree with the latter analysis: the situation of Jerusalem’s Arabs must be improved. "We know that the situation in Jerusalem is deteriorating, because it's a binational city, but the government treats it as though only Jews live there," Taterski tells the Post
, saying that the leadership must recognize that it's a city that belongs to both Jews and Palestinians.
"It will definitely not stop terror if you try to expel people from their city," he adds, though he disagrees that Netanyahu's suggestion was genuinely a response to the wave of terror, opining that it is rather the result of a loss of control and failed policy by the Israeli government. "In order to give an illusion of an answer to the public they're coming up with these drastic ideas...but the likelihood of them (the Palestinians) lashing back and being violent only increases."
HaEtzni says that for the past 40 years Israeli governments have been misstepping with regard to east Jerusalem. "The Arab residents want to be Jerusalemites and to receive the same services that all inhabitants receive from the municipality. If we deal with them in this way, I think most of them would be loyal residents," he states, adding that another fence would only build hostility, pointing to Gaza and Hebron as failed attempts at such strategy.
Though Dr Ramon notes that conversations with residents of said areas are taking the reports seriously and are afraid to lose the rights that come with their residency permits, analysts agree that implementing Netayahu’s suggestion would be close to impossible, primarily from a legal perspective.
Even Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashwari, who wouldn't put it past Netanyhau to implement such an action, tells the Post
that there are "saner voices in Israel," who won't allow it to happen.
She describes such a move as ethnic cleansing and a “lose-lose-lose” situation: it would create a reality where the residents would have no access to services, nor would they automatically get Palestinian IDs, "which need to be registered in Israeli computers" she says pointedly.
Ashwari squarely places the blame for the recent wave of terror -- which she describes as "a period of unrest" -- on Israeli settlers. "Yes, there are individual acts of violence, but I don't think you should label everything Palestinians do as terrorism and you cannot use more collective punitive measures or demolish people's homes or hold the remains of Palestinians who are killed, or turn Israelis into vigilantes," she states.
While Ashwari points fingers at the “irresponsible occupier” and HaEtzni slams the PA as a "hostile and corrupt entity" that must be removed, all agree that revoking Palestinians’ Israeli residency is a bad idea with catastrophic implications - and highly unlikely to happen.