Urgent Issues of Residency in Jerusalem
Residency problems in Jerusalem are centered around two issues: Palestinians from the Occupied Territories wishing to live in the city, and the registration of children.
The Law of Entrance into Israel entitles the Interior Minister to approve or to refuse applications for permanent residency in Jerusalem by foreigners. According to Israeli law also Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip are “foreigners” a fact which enormously increases the scope of the problems given the fact that Jerusalem is an integral part of the social and economic issue of the Palestinian society in the Occupied Territories. On the basis of this law, permanent residency is granted to Palestinian foreigners only in exceptional cases. Thus, unlike Israeli citizens, a Palestinian resident of Hebron or Ramallah cannot come to live in Jerusalem simply because he wishes to do so.
The most common case in which the Interior Minister does consider granting permanent residency to “foreigner” is the case of married non-resident spouses of Jerusalem residents. Jerusalem has not been included in the November 1992 Agreement which provided a temporary solution for “foreigners” married to a resident of the West Bank or the Gaza Strip by means of six-months renewable visit permits. Therefore the only way for these people to live united with their spouses in Jerusalem is to obtain family reunification. The policy of the Interior Ministry is to grant family reunification only to non-resident wives of Jerusalem residents. Non-resident husbands of female Jerusalemites are denied family reunification, and the couple is faced with the choice either to leave the city or to remain in Jerusalem illegally.
The registration of Palestinian children is a highly complex matter. According to Regulation 12 of the Law of Entrance into Israel, a non-Jewish child born in Israel (including Jerusalem) is issued a status in accordance with that of his/her parents; where the parents do not have the same status, the child will receive the status of his/her father. Based on this regulation, Palestinian children born in Jerusalem to a Jerusalemite mother and a father from the West Bank could not be registered in Jerusalem. In 1986, following a complaint by ACRI to the State Legal Advisor that this regulation discriminated against women, the Ministry of Interior promised to follow an unwritten policy whereby children whose father is not a Jerusalem resident would be registered in Jerusalem provided the father gives his agreement in writing, and the mother can prove that the center of her and her child’s life is in Jerusalem (e.g. she is employed in the city, pays rent and municipal taxes, the child is enrolled in a Jerusalem school, etc.).
Despite this agreement, many children who fulfill the above criteria have not been registered in Jerusalem, rather they were registered in the West Bank or not at all.
Closure Highlights Residency Problems in Jerusalem
East Jerusalem is not only the Old City with the holy sites, its bazaar, the Arabic coffee shops, and folklore which give the city its oriental flair so attractive to its foreign visitors. East Jerusalem is also the commercial and educational center of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Territories. Due to the closure, tens of thousands have been prevented access to their place of work, to medical treatment, to schools and institutions of higher education, and could not visit their bank, lawyer etc. in the city.
Especially severe damage has been caused to the communities located in the periphery of East Jerusalem:
Abu Dis, `Azariya, Sawahra, Hizma, and `Anata are Palestinian communities outside the official city limits. These and several other communities with a total of some 80,000 inhabitants do not have any public infrastructure of their own; schools, shops, and clinics serving their population are located in East Jerusalem; at least one of the villages does not even have a gas station. In spite of the total dependence on Jerusalem community services, the Israeli authorities made no special arrangements for these communities when they decided to close the city to residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The closure has therefore brought life in these communities to a stand still. Their case is represented by the Quakers Law Office and ACRI, who have addressed the State Legal Advisor on behalf of the communities. So far the authorities have refused to issue summary permits for these special cases. They rather insist that the inhabitants keep applying for individual entrance permits to Jerusalem. During the six weeks of closure some of the villagers have obtained such individual permits, however the majority of them remain without access to vital community services. Given the authorities irresponsivness, Quakers Law Office and ACRI are considering an appeal to the Supreme Court.