Arab women at Ministry of Interior in Jerusalem 311 AP.
(photo credit: AP)
Palestinian residents of east Jerusalem are increasingly lining up to request Israeli citizenship.East Jerusalem Palestinians have boycotted
local elections and lived under permanent resident status, allowing them
to remain in the city while holding out hopes that their home will
become the capital of a future Palestinian state.
But this is no embrace of the Jewish state.
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it seems to reflect waning hopes that peace talks will achieve a
Palestinian state and fears that the security barrier could one day lock
them out of the city.
The Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank and is pushing to
establish a state with its capital in east Jerusalem, has taken note of
the uptick in Palestinian applications for Israeli citizenship.
"We think this is wrong, and this doesn't help," said Palestinian
Authority spokesman Ghassan Khatib. "We discourage Palestinians from
After capturing east Jerusalem in the 1967
Six Day War, the government gave Israeli ID cards to its Palestinian
residents. Since then, they have had the option of taking Israeli
citizenship. But few have done so in a society where even cooperating
with the Jewish state — much less accepting its citizenship — is
The numbers of those who have applied for Israeli citizenship are still
small — only hundreds per year. But in recent years, there has been a
Over the past five years, about 3,000 Palestinians applied for Israeli
citizenship, and about 2,300 received it, according to the Interior
Ministry. The number of Palestinians granted Israeli citizenship has
increased each year during that time, from 147 in 2006 to 690 in 2010.
Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabine Hadad said about 13,000 of east
Jerusalem's Arab residents, or roughly 5 percent, now hold Israeli
Though the numbers are meager compared with the total 260,000
Palestinians who live in east Jerusalem, they may indicate an
undercurrent of concern about their future.
The future of Jerusalem is the toughest issue in stalled
Israel-Palestinian peace talks, but the city's status has worked to the
benefit of its Palestinian residents in some ways.
Their Israeli ID cards give them the right to travel freely throughout
the country and enjoy Israeli social welfare support. Neither are
available to Palestinians in the West Bank, which was not annexed.
Every day, there's at least one Palestinian who asks for help filling
out an application for Israeli citizenship, said a Palestinian man with a
card table and vintage typewriter in the Interior Ministry parking lot.
He makes his living typing applications in Hebrew for Palestinians. He
declined to give his name because being involved in applying for Israeli
citizenship is frowned upon in Palestinian society.
A 31-year-old taxi driver said he submitted applications last year for
him and his wife to be able to travel abroad without risk of losing
their residency rights. His cousin said he also applied for hassle-free
travel. They refused to give their names for fear of retribution from
Mariam Ikermawi, director of the Palestinian advocacy group Jerusalem
Center for Women, said some Palestinians in the city are applying for citizenship because they've lost hope in the Palestinian
leadership's ability to bring about an independent state alongside
"We have been let down by the Palestinian Authority big time," Ikermawi said.
Others fear a future state would be taken over by the militant Hamas.
Another factor could be the barrier Israel has been building for the
past eight years along the West Bank to keep attackers out, cutting
through parts of east Jerusalem. In response, throngs of Palestinians
have moved to Jerusalem neighborhoods on the "Israeli" side of the
barrier, out of fear that the wall could eventually become the border
between Israel and a Palestinian state.
"We used to say we are Palestinians. Now we say, 'I am a Jerusalemite.'" said Ikermawi. "We started feeling we belong nowhere."
Palestinians charge that Israel is stepping up a years-long practice of
stripping Palestinians of their Jerusalem residency if they live outside
the city for several years.
The Israeli organization HaMoked, which defends the rights of
Palestinians, reported in 2009 that the Interior Ministry revoked the
residency of 4,577 east Jerusalemites a year before — more than 20 times
the annual average of the previous 40 years. The Interior Ministry
would not confirm the number, but said it weeds out residents who no
longer spent most of their time in the city.