(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The Justice Ministry has informed Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that a legal case can be made for revoking the residential status of three Hamas representatives living in Israel because the circumstances in the case are exceptional and extreme.
Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz and government officials were already prepared for this measure because they had discussed it recently in connection with a proposal to revoke the citizenship of Keiss Obeid, the Israeli Arab who, in 2000, lured Elhanan Tanenbaum to Lebanon, where he was taken hostage by the Hizbullah.
In that case, the Justice Ministry expressed the opinion that there was legal justification for doing so, though the decision had to be made by the political echelon.
The Citizenship Law grants the Interior Minister a great deal of leeway in deciding to strip an Israeli of his citizenship. It also grants him the power to strip an Israeli resident of his residential status.
According to the Justice Ministry, there are indeed exceptional circumstances for lifting the residential status of the three Hamas parliamentarians, Muhammad Abu-Teir, Ahmed Atur and Muhammad Tutach. These include the fact that the three are members of a terrorist organization and that they are representatives in a foreign political institution (the Palestine National Council.) Should they lose their residential status, they will become illegal residents and could be deported to Palestinian Authority-controlled territory.
According to reports, the three Hamas representatives have threatened to petition the High Court of Justice if their residency status is withdrawn. Even if the law permits the Interior Minister to revoke their residency status, the government will have to prove, in accordance with Administrative Law, that the measure is proportional and reasonable. Mazuz believes he can convince the court that it is.
The first step in the procedure to remove their residency status will be a hearing held before the Interior Minister, who, in this case, is Olmert. The decision to strip a resident of his status or a citizen of his citizenship is the sole prerogative of the Interior Minister.
Thousands of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem have lost their residential status over the years. But in almost all of these cases, the residents tried to keep their blue identity cards, and the benefits that go with them after they moved to the West Bank and could no longer prove that Jerusalem was the center of their life. In this case, all three PNC representatives make their homes in the city.