Exclusive: Hamas 4 may stay in J'lem

Israel may not deport Hamas officials from city if they renounce ties.

Hamas 4 311 (photo credit: AP)
Hamas 4 311
(photo credit: AP)
Israel has agreed to reconsider its decision to deport four Hamas lawmakers from Jerusalem if they declare that they do not represent the radical Islamist movement and sever their ties to it, an Israeli security official told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
The four men are Palestinian Legislative Council members Mahmoud Abu Tir, Ahmed Attoun, Mohammed Totah and Khaled Abu Arafeh. Abu Arafeh is also a former Palestinian Authority cabinet member.
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They have reportedly accepted the Israeli condition and are now willing to make a public statement in this regard so that they can stay in Jerusalem.
The Jerusalem Police confiscated their Israeli ID cards after the Interior Ministry revoked their status as permanent residents of the city, paving the way for their expulsion.
The Israeli security official explained that the decision to reconsider the deportations had largely been designed to boost the standing of PA 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 official told the Post. “Their readiness to distance themselves from Hamas is an important step that could lead to the cancellation of the deportations.”
Deportation will be canceled once four sign statement
He added that the decision to deport the four men would be canceled once they sign a 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.”
Abu Tir, who was recently released from an Israeli prison after serving a 50-month-sentence, was instructed by the Jerusalem Police to leave the city by midnight last Friday.
However, his deportation was postponed at the last minute following the intervention of Abbas, the US administration and the European Union.
Last week, in an unprecedented move, Abbas twice summoned the Hamas lawmakers to his office in Ramallah and urged them to accept Israel’s condition and announce that they do not represent Hamas. Following the meetings, the legislators told reporters that they represented their voters in Jerusalem and not Hamas or any other party or organization.
The three backbenchers were on Hamas’s Change and Reform list, which 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 soldier Gilad Schalit, but have since been released.
The Israeli decision to rescind their permanent residency status in Jerusalem drew 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 the city.