Credit: Saeed Qaq, APA images


Precarious, Not Permanent: The Status Held by Palestinian Jerusalemites (Pt. 2)

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Precarious Status
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Status, Voice, and Governance


The hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Jerusalem hold a precarious status in the Israeli-Palestinian arena: Most are citizens of nowhere. This Backgrounder explores the historic reasons for that status; the rights, obligations, and risks that it entails; the complex web of rules and regulations that controls their access to obtaining any status; and the impact of precarity on their daily lives and collective psyche. Fear haunts most Palestinian Jerusalemites because their insecure status is a fundamental, omnipresent force that shapes many, if not most, of their daily life decisions and interactions. This is a recurring theme in personal stories and across many of the topics covered on this website.

Part 2 of our two-part series examines the status Palestinian Jerusalemites have vis-à-vis the Palestinian Authority and Israel. View Part 1, which examines the status they had before the State of Israel was established, and then vis-à-vis Jordan, here.

Status vis-à-vis the Palestinian Authority (PA)

Post-Oslo: Palestinian Jerusalemites with Israeli permanent-resident IDs not eligible for PA status and documents, only those under the jurisdiction of the PA

After the signing of the 1995 Oslo II Accord, the Palestinian Authority (PA) was established. Under the terms of the Oslo Accords, the PA would administer the affairs of all Palestinians in the occupied West Bank except Palestinians living in (Israeli municipal) Jerusalem, which remained undefined in the agreement. That population, according to both of the Oslo Accords, was outside the PA’s jurisdiction, as was anything to do with Jerusalem, ostensibly because it was an issue to be decided in the near-term future under permanent-status negotiations.1

Therefore, as of April 1995, while the PA could now issue (contingent upon Israeli approval) Palestinian IDs, national numbers, and “passport/travel documents” to all Palestinians living in areas under its jurisdiction, such authority did not extend to Palestinians holding Israeli permanent-resident IDs (i.e., those living within the Israeli-declared municipal boundaries of Jerusalem).2 Under the terms of the Gaza-Jericho Agreement (later incorporated into the Oslo II Agreement), the passport is called “The Palestinian Authority, Passport/Travel Document”3 and really functions as a travel document (albeit with a symbolic significance for Palestinians). It does not confer citizenship, since Palestine is not recognized as a state, and only states confer citizenship.4


The green cover of the Palestinian Authority ID card

The cover of the Palestinian Authority ID

The cover of the Palestinian Authority Passport / Travel Document

The cover of the Palestinian Authority Passport / Travel Document

Many Palestinian Jerusalemites who do not qualify for Israeli permanent residency live in areas under the PA’s jurisdiction; they are entitled to apply for these IDs. As well, some Palestinian Jerusalemites who live inside the municipal boundaries have PA IDs for a variety of reasons. However, to be clear, although the ID is issued by the PA, Israel still fully controls who is approved to receive one and how holders can and cannot use them.5 For example, Israel requires that any Palestinian holding this ID must enter and leave Israel only using it and no other ID or passport (should they happen to possess one).6

In this context, it is important to add that there is no outlet for travel abroad in these areas; travelers must access Israeli airports via Israel (for those few who are permitted to do so)7 or Jordanian airports via Jordan (and only through “allowed” passage points). But PA IDs do not entitle the holder to enter Jerusalem or Israel—this requires a separate entry permit whose issuance is completely under the control of Israeli military through a unit called Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) (see Jerusalem: A Closed City and Banned from Entry).8

In sum, possession of a PA passport/travel document does not guarantee holders the right to travel freely or change the fact that unless they have citizenship in some other country, Palestinians who hold this document remain stateless.

Likewise, most Palestinians with Israeli-issued permanent-resident IDs have no legal status except Israeli permanent residency—an increasingly tenuous status that we explore next.

PA IDs do not entitle the holder to enter Jerusalem or Israel—this requires a separate entry permit, issued by the COGAT.

Status vis-à-vis Israel: Precarious at Best

Original decision to confer residency, not citizenship

As noted in Part 1, there were virtually no Palestinians left in West Jerusalem in 1948, so the story of the community’s residency status vis-à-vis Israel begins in 1967, with Israel’s conquest of the eastern, Arab side of the city.

In 1967, as the war was raging and in its immediate aftermath, the Israeli cabinet met to consider what to do with the newly occupied West Bank (including East Jerusalem), Gaza, and Sinai, as well as what status to confer upon the indigenous population in these areas. While there was unanimous consent by June 11 to expand the boundaries of Jerusalem and extend Israeli law, jurisdiction, and administration over the newly enlarged area, adding 28 Palestinian villages to the city (see Where Is Jerusalem? The Unfixed and Uncertain Boundaries of the City), deciding what legal status to confer upon the population was of lesser importance to the group and took about 10 more days. The lens through which these debates took place was largely demographic with an eye toward avoiding the demographic and legal implications of granting full citizenship to a population that was so large. The details of the debate, available verbatim in the Israeli government archives, help shed light on the collective mindset and considerations that shaped this pivotal decision.

On June 21, the decision was made to confer permanent-residency status on the Palestinians living within the newly expanded municipal boundaries.9 According to Moshe Amirav, a political scientist who served in various capacities in the Jerusalem municipality for many years, “the designation chosen for this community was ‘non-citizen Arab residents.’”10 The option to apply for citizenship would be left open, but “only to one who requests it,” as Menahem Begin clarified during the cabinet meetings. As Amirav notes, “Begin, of course, understood that, given the choice, the Arabs would not opt for Israeli citizenship, which is exactly why he made his proposal.”11

“The designation chosen for this community was ‘non-citizen Arab residents.’”

Moshe Amirav

“Begin, of course, understood that, given the choice, the Arabs would not opt for Israeli citizenship, which is exactly why he made his proposal.”

Moshe Amirav

The status was conferred through the Entry into Israel Law, 5712-1952.12 This law is an immigration law that regulates the stays of foreigners in the country; the Ministry of Interior is responsible for its implementation. Notably, the law was passed long before Israel ever occupied Jerusalem and did not foresee the future, when the status of people already long residing in the territory would have to be regulated (as opposed to the status of people newly arriving to it).13

According to a B’Tselem report from 2004, “the law gives the Minister of the Interior almost complete discretion to terminate permanent-resident status if the resident settles in another country, and to refuse to grant automatically to a resident’s children born in Israel the status held by their parents.”14

Thus, the state related to an indigenous population, which had previously enjoyed citizenship, as aliens who had elected to resettle for a long time in a new country. Using a law originally created to regulate the status of foreign visitors, the state imposed upon this population a status that was a “revocable privilege instead of an inherent right.”15 Unlike aliens arriving from elsewhere, this population is indigenous to the city and has no other home to return to. And while, theoretically, residents have had the option to apply for Israeli citizenship through a prolonged path of naturalization, in reality, this has not been easy to attain and only a small number have done so to date.

Taking the count

Two days before this decision, on June 19, 1967, the Ministry of Interior and the Military Administration in Jerusalem published a decision to conduct a census of the Palestinian population in newly occupied East Jerusalem and its planned expanded municipal boundaries (see Where Is Jerusalem? The Unfixed and Uncertain Boundaries of the City). But the census, which ultimately was carried out on June 26, served as much more than a basic count: It was a means for authorities to minimize and reduce the numbers of Palestinians in the city by setting a very narrow qualification for being counted as a resident. Generally speaking, only Palestinians who were at home were counted by the enumerators at the time of either census and entitled to register to receive an ID with the designated status of permanent resident, a status whose rights and obligations are detailed next. Everyone else—which meant tens of thousands of Jerusalemites—was excluded.16

A father and son walk through destroyed areas of Jerusalem at the end of the 1967 War

A father and son walk through destroyed areas of Jerusalem at the end of the 1967 War, with the Old City in the background.


Associated Press

Rights and benefits conferred by Israeli permanent residency

As permanent residents, Palestinians who reside within the Israeli-declared municipal boundaries of Jerusalem (see Where Is Jerusalem? The Uncertain and Unfixed Boundaries of the City) carry a blue-cased ID card (teudat zeut in Hebrew; hawiyya in Arabic). Although the card case has a color that resembles that of cards granted to Jewish citizens, several details on the card mark them as noncitizens for those who know where to look.17 And the difference between the two could not be more stark.

As residents, Palestinians in Jerusalem are entitled only to some of the benefits of citizenship but are required to fulfill most of the obligations (except for army service), with some additional restrictions. These are summarized below.

Theoretically,18 some of the main rights of permanent residency in Jerusalem include the right to live and work throughout Jerusalem and Israel (which also means the right to enter and move within the city and the country freely, as long as the required ID is valid and is in one’s possession), and the right to vote and run for local municipal councils. Permanent residents cannot, however, run for mayor at the local level or participate in national elections or hold office at the national level. They also cannot be appointed as judges.

Permanent residents are also theoretically entitled to:

  • National health care (services established under the National Health Insurance Law, i.e., the “healthcare basket”)
  • Welfare services such as National Insurance (Bituach Leumi, the Israeli equivalent of US Social Security or National Insurance in Great Britain), and other social services (e.g., monetary allowances for children, the elderly, disabled, widows)
  • Public educational services—Jerusalem Education Authority
  • Services for the elderly (e.g., clubs) and home healthcare
  • Water and sewage
  • Urban improvement and beautification (e.g., parks and greenery)
  • Sanitation
  • Firefighting and emergency rescue
  • Cultural centers (e.g., libraries), community centers, and youth centers
  • Participation in local sports, if and where their participation is welcomed

For Palestinian Jerusalemites, these services are not always easy or simple to access, if at all, but those types of shortcomings or failures are beyond the scope of this Backgrounder.

Rights for citizens that permanent residents do not have

The following are rights that Israeli citizens enjoy but permanent residents do not:19

  • The right to vote in national elections and to run in them
  • The right to hold public office at the national level
  • The right to be appointed as a judge
  • The right to run for and serve as mayor at the local level
  • The right to receive an Israeli passport
  • Unlimited right of reentry into the country after leaving it (see A geographically limited status, below)
Women waiting in the terminal of the King Hussein / Allenby Bridge, under a photo of King Hussein and the late Itzhak Rabin, 2009

Women waiting in the terminal of the King Hussein / Allenby Bridge, under a photo of King Hussein and the late Itzhak Rabin on July 9, 2009


Ammar Awad, Reuters (via Alamy Stock Photo)

Obligations of Israeli permanent residency

Residents must pay taxes to the Israeli government (although they cannot vote in national elections) and to the Jerusalem municipality.20 The main municipal tax is called arnona, which, according to Israeli law, is levied annually on renters and owners of buildings and land. Arnona rates in Jerusalem are among the highest in Israel,21 and they change frequently.

All residents (unless exempt) must also pay Health Insurance and National Insurance22 contributions according to their income, equal to those required by citizens of Israel.23 The National Insurance contributions are deducted from paychecks by employers.

Most onerously, since 1995, Palestinian permanent residents of Jerusalem have been required to continually prove that Jerusalem is their “center of life,” about which see more below.

A conditional, inferior status

In Israel, as in most countries, the status of “permanent resident” is generally granted to foreigners who arrive from elsewhere with the intention of settling in the country for a long time. Palestinians of Jerusalem, by contrast, are indigenous to the country and had previously held citizenship, as explained above. By definition, permanent residency grants the holder a conditional permanent status below citizenship, a status that “is typically granted to immigrants and bestows significantly inferior protections and entitlements than that of ‘citizenship’ or ‘nationality.’”24 “Conditional” means that it is granted at the whim of the authorities, conditional upon whatever types of criteria the authorities choose to set. As will be explained below, in this case, these criteria have changed over the years through legal developments often introduced through specific cases. Commonly the criteria change without any warning or notice to residents and even apply retroactively to past actions and circumstances.25

A status without basic rights

It is worth noting that while Israeli citizens have their basic rights protected by Israeli laws such as the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty (see the BOX), permanent residents have no such rights or protections.

Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty

Israel's Basic Law on Dignity and Liberty1
Purpose 1. The purpose of this Basic Law is to protect human dignity and liberty, in order to establish in a Basic Law the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
Preservation of life, body and dignity 2. There shall be no violation of the life, body or dignity of any person as such.
Protection of property 3. There shall be no violation of the property of a person.
Protection of life, body and dignity 4. All persons are entitled to protection of their life, body and dignity.
Personal liberty 5. There shall be no deprivation or restriction of the liberty of a person by imprisonment, arrest, extradition or otherwise.
Leaving and entering Israel 6.

(a) All persons are free to leave Israel.
(b) Every Israel national has the right of entry into Israel from abroad.

Privacy 7.

(a) All persons have the right to privacy and to intimacy.
(b) There shall be no entry into the private premises of a person who has not consented thereto.
(c) No search shall be conducted on the private premises of a person, nor in the body or personal effects.
(d) There shall be no violation of the confidentiality of conversation, or of the writings or records of a person.

Violation of rights 8. There shall be no violation of rights under this Basic Law except by a law befitting the values of the State of Israel, enacted for a proper purpose, and to an extent no greater than is required.
  9. There shall be no restriction of rights under this Basic Law held by persons serving in the Israel Defense Forces, the Israel Police, the Prisons Service and other security organizations of the State, nor shall such rights be subject to conditions, except by virtue of a law, or by regulation enacted by virtue of a law, and to an extent no greater than is required by the nature and character of the service.
Reservation regarding security forces 10. This Basic Law shall not affect the validity of any law (din) in force prior to the commencement of the Basic Law.
Application 11. All governmental authorities are bound to respect the rights under this Basic Law.
Stability 12. This Basic Law cannot be varied, suspended or made subject to conditions by emergency regulations; notwithstanding, when a state of emergency exists, by virtue of a declaration under section 9 of the Law and Administration Ordinance, 5708-1948, emergency regulations may be enacted by virtue of said section to deny or restrict rights under this Basic Law, provided the denial or restriction shall be for a proper purpose and for a period and extent no greater than is required.


Israel's Basic Law on Dignity and Liberty

A Muslim man argues with police at the entrance to al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem, 2021

A Muslim man argues with police at the entrance to al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem on February 15, 2021


Jason Moore, Alamy Stock Photo

A nontransferable status

Permanent residency does not pass automatically to one’s nonresident spouse or children.

A geographically limited status

As well, this status only applies within the boundaries of Israel—unlike citizenship, it is a status that derives from one’s presence in the country and is only valid within the country and, in recent decades, only as long as one remains demonstrably centered in the city.

A status with limited travel potential

As noted, residents are not entitled to Israeli passports, nor do they enjoy the automatic right of reentry. Therefore, if a permanent resident needs to leave the country, he or she must first obtain a different document. For those leaving through Ben Gurion Airport, that document is the laissez-passer. For those leaving through the Allenby Bridge to Jordan, that document is the exit permit (tassarih).26 These documents contain a reentry permit to Israel that is only valid for a finite amount of time (for traveling to Jordan, three years; for traveling through the airport, one year), after which it must be renewed in person in Jerusalem. Critically, “if for any reason, a person does not renew his/her Israeli reentry visa, s/he forfeits the right to return.”27 By law also, Israeli citizens and residents must exit and enter the country only on Israeli government documents (not other foreign passports). So there is no evading these requirements.

Applying for a laissez-passer is neither simple nor quick. Applications must be made at the sole branch of the Ministry of Interior in East Jerusalem; the backup is severe, and processing can take as long as eight months to get an appointment28 and another three weeks to receive the laissez-passer.29 As of June 2017, all such documents are biometric, so applicants must submit to scanning their face and providing fingerprints. Applicants have an option to refuse to have their fingerprints saved to the biometric database, but that reduces the validity of the document from 10 years to 5.30

The travel document can only be obtained through this in-person application process in Israel. If it expires while abroad, the traveler will not be allowed back into the country, and it cannot be renewed anywhere else.31

It is important to note that many Palestinian Jerusalemites hold PA IDs. For them, the paperwork and processes required to travel are different, as detailed previously (see Status vis-à-vis the Palestinian Authority, above).

If for any reason, a person does not renew his/her Israeli reentry visa, s/he forfeits the right to return.

A revocable and increasingly precarious status

By law, the permanent-residency status can be revoked by the minister of interior at his discretion at any time. The Ministry of Interior is also empowered to deport any non-Jewish person who remains in the country without a legal status.32

Thus, permanent residency is a precarious status. The precarity of permanent residency for Palestinian Jerusalemites has evolved over three distinct phases since 1967, traced here. While revocation was always possible and available to the authorities, the grounds for revocation have greatly broadened over time, generally through legal cases, and it has been used with increasing frequency and with dramatically increased “burden of proof” on the resident.

1967–95: In the first decade—the early part of the first phase—permanent-resident status was manageable to maintain. For those who remained in the country, all they needed to do was renew their IDs before the date of expiry, which was a routine matter.33 For those wishing to travel, since there is no right of reentry to the country for residents, they had to obtain the required travel documents and take care to renew their reentry permits in order to be allowed back in to the country. But critically, at that time, they did not have to be physically present in the country to do so:

The grounds for revocation have greatly broadened over time.

Family members were customarily allowed to extend the exit/return card [required to leave via Jordan, valid for three years] for a relative outside of Jerusalem, each time for a period of 12 months and for a total period of five to six years. Only a stay of seven consecutive years abroad without visits to Israel was liable to result in revocation of residency status.34

Palestinian Jerusalemites could live in Jerusalem, in the West Bank, or abroad—and maintain their residency status with ease.35 The few people whose residency was revoked had lived outside the entire country for more than seven years. They could even obtain citizenship or permanent residency in another country without jeopardy to their status in Jerusalem.36 Thus, according to one report, “Between 1967–1991, tens of thousands of Palestinian Jerusalemites were thus able to live in the West Bank or abroad and, at the same time, keep their residency rights in the city.”37

In 1973, a committee called the Inter-Ministerial Committee for Checking Development Rates in Jerusalem (or the Gafni Committee for short) took a major policy decision to preserve the demographic balance in the city at its 1972 level—73.5 percent Jews to 26.5 percent Arabs. According to B’Tselem, “this ratio is called the ‘demographic balance,’ which means preserving the demographic superiority of Jews in Jerusalem.”38 This decision was in line with a deep and widely shared conviction at the core of Zionism that a Jewish majority is essential to Israel’s survival as a Jewish state. In particular, the demographic balance in Jerusalem has been of paramount importance to all Israeli governments and municipal officials, and the story of the legal status of Palestinian Jerusalemites can only be understood against that background.

The arrivals terminal at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv.

In the first decade after 1967, Palestinian permanent residents could leave the country without concern and reenter as long as they maintained their IDs. Shown here: the arrivals terminal at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv.


In July 1974, new regulations came into effect concerning the Entry into Israel Law. These are called the Entry into Israel Law Regulations. At the time, they only pertained to child registration.

In March 1979, Israel signed a peace treaty with Egypt.

In July 1980, Israel passed Basic Law: Jerusalem, which codified the de facto annexation of East Jerusalem that had occurred in 1967.39 This “reflected the Israeli government’s desire to cement its claims over [all of] Jerusalem in any forthcoming peace negotiations with Jordan or the Palestinians.”40

In 1985 and 1987, the Ministry of Interior amended the Entry into Israel Law Regulations, adding provisions that specified, for the first time, conditions under which permanent-residency status could automatically expire, specifically: “settling [living] outside Israel” for a period of seven years or more, or acquiring permanent residency or citizenship in another country.41 The automatic expiry meant that the minister of interior did not even need to bother to review the case, and there would be no means of judicial review.

In 1988, these regulations were used as the basis for a very important decision in the case of Mubarak Awad.

“. . . the ‘demographic balance’ . . . means preserving the demographic superiority of Jews in Jerusalem.”

B'Tselem, Israeli Human Rights organization

Mubarak Awad vs. the Prime Minister and Interior Minister (1988): Mubarak Awad is a Palestinian scholar who was born in 1943 in Jerusalem and raised in the city. He witnessed both the 1948 Nakba (Catastrophe) and the 1967 Naksa (Setback).

Awad and his family were still living in the Old City at the end of the 1967 War; therefore, he was counted as part of the census and received an Israeli permanent-resident ID.

In May 1970, Awad left Jerusalem to study in the US. In 1973, he finished his bachelor’s degree and received a green card to remain in the US. By 1982, he had obtained a PhD there. During his stay, he applied for US citizenship and eventually obtained it. Between 1970 and 1983, he returned to Jerusalem three or four times, using his American documents; Israel considered him a tourist. After 1983, Awad entered Israel about 15 times, staying for varying lengths of time.

Case Study Mubarak Awad: Lifelong Experience of Dispossession

A Palestinian American psychologist who was born and raised in Jerusalem had his residency revoked when he advocated nonviolence in Palestine in 1987–88.

In January 1985, Awad founded the Palestinian Center for the Study of Nonviolence in Jerusalem where he advocated for nonviolent resistance, including civil disobedience and boycotts against Israel. Awad last entered Israel in 1987, and in May, he submitted an application to the Ministry of Interior to replace his old, worn-out Israeli permanent-resident ID with a new one. Three months later, on July 20, 1987, the ministry rejected his application on the grounds that he was no longer a resident of Israel and that his tourist visa, although valid at the time of application, would expire on November 20, 1987.

Awad’s visa expired, but he remained in the country. Six months later, as the First Intifada was underway, Awad became involved in the resistance efforts.

On May 9, 1988, Minister of Interior Yitzhak Shamir ordered the deportation of Awad on the grounds that he was in the country illegally, and he was engaged in activities that called for civil disobedience in the occupied Palestinian Territories (oPT).42 Awad was subsequently arrested and appealed to the High Court to negate his arrest warrant and deportation order.43

In June 1988, the High Court of Justice, ruling against Awad, reaffirmed that Palestinian residents of Jerusalem are only entitled to permanent residency, and in no way does it represent any form of citizenship, in accordance with the 1952 Entry to Israel Law, which for the first time the decision deemed the applicable law governing this status:44

Graphic Situations That Can Trigger a Status Review

What are the everyday interactions that pose risk to a Palestinian permanent resident of Jerusalem?

The Entry into Israel Law addresses two major issues: entry into Israel (Sec. 1(a)) and residency in Israel (Sec. 1(b)). On the issue of residency in Israel, the law stipulates:

          The residency in Israel of a person who is not a citizen of Israel or a holder
          of an oleh visa or an oleh certificate [given to Jews] shall be by a residency
          permit under this law.

This provision does not apply exclusively to persons who entered Israel. It is an independent provision which applies to residency in Israel irrespective of the issue of entry into Israel. Thus, for example, this provision regulates the residency in Israel of newborns born in Israel to persons who are not Israeli citizens or holders of an oleh visa or certificate. Indeed, the law distinguishes between a visa (which addresses a permit to enter Israel) and a permit (which addresses residency in Israel). Residency permits are granted by the Minister of Interior for various periods of time.45

Awad’s attorneys argued that Palestinian Jerusalemites had a special status, and their permanent residency should be treated as “quasi-citizenship.”46 The High Court rejected this argument and confirmed that permanent residency can be revoked or not renewed at the discretion of the minister of interior, as stated under the law. However, the High Court said that the 1952 Entry into Israel Law did not address the issue of permanent residency expiring. For that, the court turned to the Entry into Israel Regulations, which indicate that permanent residency can expire or be revoked if a permanent resident leaves Israel to settle in another country, obtains citizenship through naturalization in other country, or goes abroad for more than seven years without visiting Israel or renewing his or her residency status.47 According to the judgment:

This new reality reveals that the petitioner uprooted himself from the country and rooted himself in the USA. His center of life is no longer the country but the USA. It is superfluous to note that it is often difficult to point to a specific point in time at which a person ceased from permanently residing in the country and that there is certainly a span of time in which a person’s center of life seemingly hovers between his previous place of residence and his new place of residence. This is not the case at hand. In his behavior, the petitioner demonstrated his wish to severe [sic] his tie of permanent residency with the country and create a new and strong tie—permanent residency initially and citizenship ultimately—with the USA. True, it may be that the motivation for this wish was obtaining certain advantages in the USA. It may be that in his heart of hearts he aspired to return to the country. Yet, the decisive test is reality of life as it transpires in practice. According to this test, the petitioner transferred his center of life to the USA at some point, and he is no longer to be considered as permanently residing in Israel.48

This ruling had enormous significance in a number of ways. First, it affirmed that the annexation of Jerusalem and the imposition of Israeli law on the city stopped short of the Palestinians living in the annexed areas—they were residents, not citizens, and the court found that normal and acceptable. Put another way, the annexation applied to territory, not people.49

Second, it greatly expanded the grounds for “permanent” residency to be revoked, including by automatic expiration. Whereas before the Awad case, a resident would have to leave the country for residency to expire, now residents had to continually prove that they were present in the city, and even that they had been present in the past. And third, it created a new means for revocations to occur called the “center of life.”

Whereas before the Awad case, a resident would have to leave the country for residency to expire, now residents had to continually prove that they were present in the city, and even that they had been present in the past. 

“Center of life”: The “center of life” policy, which emerged from the Supreme Court ruling in the Awad case,50 is a judicially created doctrine subject to the discretion of the minister of interior. According to this policy, in order to maintain their residency, Palestinian Jerusalemites must consistently prove to the Ministry of Interior that their “center of life” is in Israel. Practically speaking, since Palestinian Jerusalemites rarely live outside the city, this means proving that their “center of life” lies in Jerusalem (i.e., within the Israeli-declared municipal boundaries).51 Those who cannot prove so are at risk of having their status revoked or their residency not renewed upon expiration.52 Termination of the status is automatic and in the view of the Ministry of Interior, the resident “does not require a right to be heard.”53 Nor is the government required to provide a reason.

This judgment subsequently became the “leading authority” for the Supreme Court on the conditions meriting expiry of residency status for many years.54

Because so many Palestinian Jerusalemites are otherwise stateless, as we have seen, the “center of life” policy is effectively “institutionalizing statelessness,” as lawyer Danielle C. Jefferis has argued.55

Although the judgment laid the groundwork for the new policy, it would not be used for the first time until June 1994.56 But it began to be widely used in 1995, exactly seven years after its articulation within the Mubarak Awad decision.

Under the “center of life” policy, in order to maintain their residency, Palestinian Jerusalemites must con- sistently prove to the Ministry of Interior that their “center of life” is in Israel. 

Graphic When Palestinian Jerusalemites Must Prove That Jerusalem Is Their “Center of Life”

Palestinians who hold permanent-resident status must satisfy the state that Jerusalem is their “center of life” in order to continue enjoying that status. But how frequently?

The line at the Wadi al-Joz Ministry of Interior office that serves Palestinian residents, 2021

The line at the Wadi al-Joz Ministry of Interior office that serves Palestinian residents, November 2021


Sari Hammouri for Jerusalem Story

1995–2006: The second phase coincided with the signing of the second Oslo Agreement (Oslo II). At this time, there was a sense that final negotiations on Jerusalem, deferred by Oslo, would be held in the near future (the agreements, signed in 1993 and 1995, had a five-year time horizon). The agreements also included provisions for a number of Palestinians previously barred from returning to the country to come back, which apparently also caused enough concern to step up the use of this tool, as hinted at in a letter from the Ministry of Interior to Yael Stein of B’Tselem:

It is necessary to reiterate that these rules have been in force for many years, and they have not been changed recently.

The reason that the issue only recently arose is that since the peace agreements, persons who had left Israel many years ago have been streaming back, a phenomenon that had not existed prior to these agreements.57

That same year, another case came before the Supreme Court that again challenged the state’s right to revoke residency from a Palestinian Jerusalemite, the case of Fathiya Shiqaqi.

Fathiya Shiqaqi vs. the Ministry of Interior: A legal reaffirmation of the “center of life” policy: Fathiya Shiqaqi, a Palestinian Jerusalemite native, was the wife of Islamic Jihad leader Fathi Shiqaqi. Fathi58 was born and raised in a refugee camp in Gaza. His involvement in Islamic Jihad began in the 1980s. In 1983, he was arrested by Israel and imprisoned for 11 months. He was arrested and imprisoned again in 1986. In 1988, he was deported to Lebanon, but eventually made his way to Damascus. On October 26, 1995, he was assassinated in Malta by Mossad.59 He left behind his wife and their four children (Fathiya was pregnant at the time). Before Fathi was killed, Fathiya attempted to return to Jerusalem and reestablish her Israeli permanent residency. From the court records, it is evident that the two factors that contributed to Fathiya losing the case were (1) not proving her “center of life” in Jerusalem because she had been living in Syria for six years and (2) her husband’s involvement in Islamic Jihad.60

The Shiqaqi case is particularly significant, because the Israeli court system reaffirmed the “center of life” policy that governs the permanent residency of Palestinian Jerusalemites, using the Awad case as a precedent. According to court records, the petitioner, Fathiya Shiqaqi, was counted in the census of 1967 and provided with an Israeli permanent-resident ID.61 In 1985, Fathiya and Fathi got married. In 1988, when Fathi was deported, Fathiya moved to Syria to be with her husband. In October 1994, Fathiya visited Jerusalem with her three children. Upon arriving, she went to the Ministry of Interior and requested that her ID be renewed and that her three children be registered under her ID. The ministry denied her request by indicating that her ID had expired, would not be renewed, and ordered her to leave Israel immediately.

The Shiqaqi case is particularly significant, because the Israeli court system reaffirmed the “center of life” policy that governs the permanent residency of Palestinian Jerusalemites, using the Awad case as a precedent.

Fathiya filed a petition appealing the decision to the Israeli High Court of Justice, claiming she was forced by the circumstances to change her place of residence to Syria to be with her husband, who had been deported. Her move was beyond her control. Her lawyers also argued that under the Entry into Israel Regulations of 1974, she had not settled in a country other than Israel because (1) she never received permanent residency or citizenship in Syria and (2) she had not been out of the country for seven years or more.

The court ruled in favor of the Ministry of Interior, and claimed that, although Fathiya was not out of the country for seven years and did not obtain permanent residency or citizenship in another country, there was indication of “presumption of settlement.”62 This meant that while Fathiya did not technically commit the violations that led to the revocation of her residency, the law allows for a liberal interpretation of a petitioner’s actions.

In other words, the court decided that Fathiya’s actions were indicative of settlement outside of Israel (the main principle of the Entry into Israel Regulations of 1974), and therefore her residency could be revoked, even when she had not yet been seven years outside the country.63 This also broke the “seven-year” requirement and allowed for a different, highly subjective, standard.

The court decided that Fathiya’s actions were indicative of settlement outside of Israel . . . and therefore her residency could be revoked, even when she had not yet been seven years outside the country.

A closer look at the “center of life” policy: According to Israeli law and policy, as implemented since the landmark Awad and especially Shiqaqi cases, a potential resident’s “center of life” is determined in two ways: (1) an “objective test” that is based on a person living in the country, along with their family, work life, and assets; and (2) a “subjective test” that is based on a potential resident’s personal viewpoints.64 A combination of these two tests indicates that the Ministry of Interior has wide discretionary latitude in determining who is a resident. According to Israeli attorney Joshua Pex,65 the objective factors are mainly based on how much time a person spends in the country, which needs to be all or the majority of his or her time. Assets, such as property or a vehicle, are another major factor. The subjective factors, which are considered to a lesser degree, relate to where a person’s family resides and his or her connection to the country. The government uses the following elements of the objective test to establish a judgment about a person’s “center of life” within Israel:66

  1. Ownership or rental of property in Israel (including Jerusalem)
  2. Bills such as property taxes, electricity, water, phone, gas
  3. Possession of an Israeli bank account
  4. Payments to the National Insurance Institute
  5. Membership in the healthcare system
  6. Employment in Israel (including Jerusalem)
  7. Children enrolled in schools in Israel (including Jerusalem)
  8. Ownership and ongoing use of residential property outside the Israeli municipal boundaries (this can be used as evidence that a person’s “center of life” lies outside of Jerusalem)

While there are guiding policies for the “center of life,” the Israeli government still gives itself the space to liberally apply those policies through the subjective test: “It must be stressed that each file is examined on a case by case basis, depending on circumstances, as well as on the probative value granted to each situation.”67

Undergoing this process is not an occasional experience. Rather, any visit to the Ministry of Interior triggers a “center of life” investigation and a possible notice of status expiry for oneself and one’s minor children (if they are registered in one’s ID). Even if Palestinians try to avoid visiting the ministry, there are many requirements that force them to do so, since by law, residents are required to notify the ministry of any change in their place of residence or family status.

On occasion the ministry simply mandates a sweeping “replacement of all IDs,” and in that sweep can “weed out” anyone whose “center of life” has been found through whatever investigative means to be insufficiently rooted in the city.

If at any point the Ministry of Interior determines an individual’s “center of life” is no longer in Jerusalem, then his or her residency status automatically expires and he or she can be ordered to leave the country within a matter of days. In some cases, the ministry delivers a letter of revocation, and the individual is not given an opportunity to submit documentation proving their “center of life” in Jerusalem.68 But often, as noted, an individual only becomes aware of his or her revoked or expired status when asked to present an ID.

Graphic When You Are Required to Update an ID

How a routine bureaucratic requirement becomes a tool for subjugation and population control

The line for the Wadi al-Joz branch office of the Ministry of Interior, 2021

The line for the Wadi al-Joz branch office of the Ministry of Interior, which serves Palestinian residents, on November 15, 2021


Sari Hammouri for Jerusalem Story

Ramifications of revocation of residency status: When an individual’s Israeli permanent-residency status is revoked, the person is required to leave Jerusalem forthwith and often goes to the West Bank or Jordan if they have legal status there. In some high-profile cases, they are taken directly to the border (see Deported for Not Showing Loyalty: The Case of Four Jerusalem Officials Whose Residency Was Revoked after a 12-Year Legal Battle and Charged with “Security Offenses” for Reporting on a Demonstration, a Photographer Fights to Remain in Jerusalem). Often this means permanent separation from families who do not want to risk losing their own status by moving outside the city. 

Moreover, when a parent’s residency status is revoked, any minor children who are registered in the parent’s ID also lose their status automatically, regardless of whether they were born in the city. This means that for every single revocation of status, many more people might be affected. For children, this can mean loss of access to schools, healthcare, welfare, friends, family, and more. 

Furthermore, revocation of residency status immediately affects one’s mobility and freedom of movement. This person can no longer enter Jerusalem, and if he or she decides to remain in the city without valid residency, he or she usually cannot visit the West Bank, because Jerusalem is separated from the rest of the West Bank by Israeli military checkpoints.

According to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report,69 a man who lost his Israeli residency was forced to climb the Separation Wall to attend a wedding in the West Bank. Another man who had his Israeli permanent-resident ID revoked said the Ministry of Interior refused to issue birth certificates to his five Jerusalem-born children. Other Jerusalem residents without residency status interviewed by HRW said they were unable to legally work, have access to social welfare benefits, attend family events, or visit ill relatives abroad. Families are split between Jerusalem and the West Bank.

In general, those with revoked residencies live in a constant state of precarity and anxiety; working (and spending a considerable amount of money) to regain their permanent status, while also tending to their day-to-day life without it and fearing being apprehended. Residents who stay in Jerusalem despite the order of the Ministry of Interior risk severe penalties if apprehended.70 These penalties include arrest, imprisonment, fines, and deportation.

Graphic Life without a Legal Status in Jerusalem

What does it mean to have “no status” (i.e., to be stateless) after the state revokes one’s residency?

Israeli Border police checking a woman’s ID at a checkpoint in the Old City of Jerusalem, 2017

Israeli Border police checking a woman’s ID at a checkpoint leading to the Dome of the Rock in the Old City of Jerusalem on Wednesday May 15, 2017. The access at the time was closed to Muslim worshippers following an attack that killed two Israeli police the previous Friday. 


Debbie Hill/UPI via Alamy Stock Photo

Right of appeal: Technically, since June 1997, a person does have the right to appeal a revocation decision to a committee within the Ministry of Interior (prior to that, there was no such right). However, this committee does not seem to have a standard of practice and may or may not respond to letters of appeal, let alone hold a hearing. According to B’Tselem, “At no stage is the resident allowed to present arguments orally before any Ministry official.”71 Often the resident’s identity card is taken away as soon as the resident is informed of revocation, implying finality. According to B’Tselem, this right “is only a formality.”72 Generally, the hearings do not favor the individuals making appeals, and the committee’s rejection is almost guaranteed.

If an appeal is rejected, individuals have the option of utilizing the Israeli court system.73 This has proven to be a time-consuming and expensive process, leaving many Palestinian Jerusalemites in a state of constant precarity

The unannounced game changer: In December 1995, another policy decision of enormous consequence was taken with very little fanfare. Indeed it was so low profile that it could only be found on page 576 of the State Comptroller’s Annual Report,74 which stated:

In December 1995, a discussion was held in the Attorney General’s office over whether the areas of Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip [hereafter—the region] should be considered “outside Israel” for the purposes of expiration of a permanent-residency permit under the Entry into Israel Regulations. Following the discussions, the legal advisor of the Ministry issued a directive to the East Jerusalem office, according to which “outside Israel” also includes the region and that, therefore, where persons who had resided in the region for more than seven years, their permanent-residency permit has expired and they should no longer be registered in the Population Registry as a resident. The directive further stated that short visits to Israel during the seven years do not break continuity in counting the period.75

This short passage had massive implications for the lives of Palestinian Jerusalemites. First and foremost, while previously it had not mattered where in the “region” they were living as long as they renewed their IDs on time and did not leave the country, now suddenly their whereabouts were hugely important. Given that the municipal boundary of the city was drawn arbitrarily by Israel in 1967 (see Where Is Jerusalem: The Uncertain and Unfixed Boundaries of the City?) and did not align with the Palestinian definition of the city or the Jerusalem district, and also given the exorbitant costs of housing in the heart of the city, Jerusalemites holding permanent-resident IDs had long settled in the adjacent neighborhoods around the city, many of which were technically “outside” the municipal boundary although in the community’s collective consciousness, they were all part of the Jerusalem fabric. One estimate made by a human rights organization at the time was that of the 170,000 Palestinian Jerusalemite holders of permanent-resident IDs in the country, 70,000 (about 40 percent) lived in suburban areas that technically fell outside the municipal boundaries and were within the rest of the West Bank.76 So with this stroke of the pen, the definition of “outside Israel” changed to include the occupied West Bank and Gaza, which were now suddenly “out of the country.” Tens of thousands of Palestinian Jerusalemites were thus rendered vulnerable to status revocation. And that does not include the thousands more living in neighboring Arab countries such as Jordan and elsewhere.

The definition of “outside Israel” changed to include the occupied West Bank and Gaza, which were now suddenly “out of the country.” Tens of thousands of Palestinian Jerusalemites were thus rendered vulnerable to status revocation.

It is important to pause and take note of the hypocrisy of this move, both because Israel flatly refused to accept any kind of Palestinian state in those areas, and because the situation allowed for Jews is the mirror opposite: Citizens from Israel are welcomed to settle in West Bank settlements that by this definition would be “outside the country” and not only do they keep their citizenship and all its benefits, but they are free to travel without obstruction anywhere at any time without ever jeopardizing their legal status. They also enjoy the full protection of Israeli civil law inside these settlements. As one legal scholar noted in an article about the Awad decision:

There is high irony in the executive’s readiness to recognize the territories as an independent state for the present purpose while the Israeli government struggles to prevent the recognition of such a state in the international arena. In the circumstances the imputation of an improper purpose or extraneous consideration behind the 1995 change of policy would surely be hard to deny.77

Second and equally importantly, the directive completely upended previous policy that had considered the seven-year clock to “restart” with each brief visit back to Jerusalem. Now all those visits home in past years suddenly no longer counted. All that mattered was the original date of the move out of the country.

But these were not the only lightning bolts buried in the fine print of the State Comptroller’s report. Elsewhere (pp. 577–80), the Comptroller criticized the office of the Ministry of Interior in Wadi al-Joz (the one that processes all matters for Palestinian Jerusalemites) for not rigorously checking the validity of each applicant’s permanent-residency ID upon renewal. She further held that “retroactive change of policy should not be censured, holding that ‘it is better late than never’” and that the ministry “must act systematically to locate those whose permanent-residency permits have expired, update accordingly the particulars of their registration, and take away their identity cards.” In other words, the ministry should begin auditing everyone, scrutinizing all its files whether the status holder was making an application of any kind or not, looking back in time as well as at the present time, and without regard to prior extensions of validity that may have been granted.

Putting this all together, the new reality Palestinian Jerusalemites faced was that the ministry could audit their lives with information from virtually any source (because in short order other government agencies such as the National Insurance Institute were colluding and providing information to cross-reference),78and as soon as it was determined that they had lived outside the boundaries of the city (including by a few meters) for more than seven years, regardless of any prior extensions they may have received, their status could be marked in the computer as “revoked” or simply “expired.”

As an example of one of the many ways this played out, the Oslo Accords provided for Palestinians in the West Bank to hold their first-ever national elections in 1996. Part of the provisions of the Accords included a full registry of all eligible voters, with a requirement that this database had to be shared with Israel. Under the terms of the accord, Palestinian Jerusalemites holding Israeli IDs, whether they lived inside the city or beyond its boundaries, were theoretically eligible to participate. However, under the terms of the accord, if they were living outside the city boundaries, they were required to register at polling sites outside the boundaries. Once this data was shared with Israel, unbeknownst to the voters aspiring to do their civic duty, they could be at risk of revocation of their permanent-resident status, as Israel cross-tabulated the data from the vote registration with the data in its own Population Registry.79

As well, in April 1995, during that same fateful year and also only known from the same Comptroller’s Annual Report, the Ministry of Interior made an agreement with the National Insurance Institute (NII) that when the NII investigates claims for benefits, it would specifically check whether the claimant was residing outside Israel and if so, it would forward this finding to the ministry.

Relying on these findings, the Population Administration would notify the individual that his permanent-residency permit has expired, take the necessary measures to delete him from the registry records, and take his identity card from him.80

The topic of the NII and other agencies’ collusion with this policy is beyond the scope of this backgrounder, but it is very important to understand the impossible and terrifying web that Palestinian Jerusalemites have found themselves caught in from 1995 onward.

Implementation without notice; retroactive applicability: The state did not announce its intentions. According to a report by B’Tselem and HaMoked:

The new policy took East Jerusalem Palestinians by surprise. The ministry did not publish any notice about the change in policy, and exercised the policy retroactively against persons who had left the city when the ministry had a different policy.81

Residents who could not prove they were present would simply be informed that their “permanent” residency had expired at whatever arbitrary moment they happened to intersect with the Ministry of Interior or other authority with access to the Population Registry database—at a checkpoint, at an airport, when applying for a new permit, when trying to register a child’s birth, or any other time. According to B’Tselem:

Palestinians who now go to the Interior Ministry’s office in East Jerusalem for whatever purpose are liable to receive notification that their permanent residency permit has expired. They must then return [hand over] their identity card [on the spot] and leave Israel within fifteen days. Other family members (children and spouse) whose residency rights depended on the person are also expelled.82

By the numbers: The Awad and Shiqaqi cases and the developments that followed demonstrated that although Israel provided the Palestinians of Jerusalem with an Israeli residency status in 1967 and it is technically called “permanent residency,” it is far from permanent and puts them in a constant state of precarity.83

Since 1967, Israel has revoked or allowed to expire the residency of almost 15,000 Palestinian Jerusalemites (see the BOX), with thousands more at risk of revocation or nonrenewal.84  Looked at decade by decade, the number has consistently increased with each passing decade. However, as will be clear from the BOX, revocations escalated sharply in 1995, the year that the Ministry of Interior began implementing the “center of life” policy and defining the West Bank as being “outside the country.” This also was the year when the second Oslo Accord was signed, creating perhaps an increased urgency on Israel’s part to further solidify demographic superiority in the city in anticipation of the final status negotiations, which were believed to be imminent. In fact, nearly 80 percent of revocations between 1967 and 2019 occurred in 1995 and after (see the BOX). The annual number of revocations peaked in 2008 with 4,577 revocations in one year.85 By contrast, in the first 28 years, Israel revoked permanent-status residency from about 3,100 Palestinian Jerusalemites, mostly for the three aforementioned reasons.86

By the Numbers: Jerusalem IDs That Expired or Were Revoked between 1967 and 2020

Period of time  Number    Running total by decade Notes1
1967 105 678 Israel occupies East Jerusalem June 5, 1967, and holds a census on June 26, 1967.

Of the approximately 30,000 people who lost their residency by virtue of not being present for this census, only 5,000 are allowed back.

1968 395    
1969 178    
1970 327    
1972 93    
1973 77    
1974 45    
1975 54   Law of Entry into Israel Regulations introduced related to child registration
1976 42    
1977 35    
1978 36    
1979 91    
1980 158 2,904  
1981 51    
1982 74    
1983 616    
1984 161    
1985 99    
1986 84    
1987 23   Law of Entry into Israel Regulations amended again
First Intifada breaks out in December.
1988 2   Mubarak Awad case establishes that permanent residency comes under the Law of Entry into Israel 1952 and sets the foundation for the “center of life” policy—decision is announced on June 5, 1988.
1989 32    
1990 36 6,174 Persian Gulf War erupts on August 2.
1991 20   Persian Gulf War concludes on February 28. By its end, Arafat is greatly weakened. 
Israel and the PLO begin peace talks at Madrid October 30–November 4.
1992 41    
1993 32   Oslo I Accord is signed on September 13, 1995.
1994 45   Israel and Jordan sign a peace treaty in October.
1995 91   Oslo II Accord is signed on September 28, 1995.
Prime Minister Rabin is assassinated in November 1995.
December 1995—attorney general instructs the Ministry of Interior to consider the occupied territories as being “outside of Israel” and to penalize Jerusalem ID holders who reside there.
1996 739   January 1996—first Palestinian elections for president and parliament. Palestinian Jerusalemites are allowed to vote but must register to do so, providing their addresses.
1997 1,067    
1998 788    
1999 411    
2000 207 7,399 Second Intifada breaks out on September 28.
2001 15   Data available till the end of April only
2002 NA   No data available
2003 272    
2004 16    
2005 222    
2006 1,363    
2007 229    
2008 4,577   Peak year for residency revocations
2009 720    
2010 191 8,305  
2011 101    
2012 116    
2013 106    
2014 107    
2015 84    
2016 95    
2017 35   Supreme Court rules in the Akram Abd al-Haq case that Palestinians are indigenous.
2018 13    
2019 40    
2020 18    
  TOTAL 14,701 This number is only the number of individual IDs that were revoked or expired. The full number of individuals who lost their residency as a result is much higher, because when minor children are registered on a revoked or expired ID, their status is simultaneously cancelled.


Year-by-year breakdown of all known status revocations and expirations, according to the Ministry of Interior data

Nearly 80 percent of revocations between 1967 and 2019 occurred in 1995 and after.

The Sharansky Affidavit: During the late 1990s, a number of Israeli human rights organizations challenged the policy of revocation by expiration of East Jerusalem permanent residency by taking the case to the Supreme Court. This led to a change by the Ministry of Interior. The minister of interior at the time, Natan Sharansky, announced that the ministry would allow those who had their residencies revoked due to being out of the country for up to seven years to apply to have their residency reinstated.87

The Sharansky Affidavit creates a process for Palestinian Jerusalemites who lost their residency due to revocation to have their residency reinstated after spending two years in Israel or within the Israeli municipal boundaries of Jerusalem. According to the court documents, this new policy particularly deals with those cases concerning the “center of life” policy.88

An important change is regarding those who lost their permanent residency without being informed by the ministry: As long as they returned to the region during the seven years or more and held a valid exit card, they can work toward reinstating their residency. Since Palestinian Jerusalemites do not hold Israeli citizenship, as noted above, they are given documentation upon leaving the country through Ben Gurion Airport or the bridges to Jordan that contains a reentry permit. However, even this affidavit gives the state and the ministry broad powers with regards to permanent residency of those in East Jerusalem: “Nothing in the abovementioned shall detract from the provisions of law concerning naturalization and acquisition of a permit for permanent residence outside of Israel, or from the Interior Ministry’s discretion concerning their application in light of the applicant’s personal circumstances and his affinities as a whole.”89

2006–present: Expanding the justifications for revocation: punitive revocation: As early as 2006, the state moved to start revoking residency from Palestinian Jerusalemites in a punitive way. This took a number of forms: 

  • For alleged “disloyalty to the state”
  • For carrying out “security offenses”
  • For association with a family member who carried out a “security offence”

Note that this change broadened the authorities’ reach and enabled them to revoke residency from Palestinians who had never set foot outside Jerusalem, since there is no requirement to have been outside the city. With this broadening of the justifications for revocation, virtually every Palestinian Jerusalemite is theoretically at risk of losing residency. Ominously, this includes people whose political views the state finds objectionable.

Indeed, one of the first such clear cases90 was politically motivated. The case involved four Palestinian Jerusalemites who were officials in the Hamas government, which Palestinians had freely elected in 2006. Under the terms of the Oslo Accords, Palestinian Jerusalemites are supposed to be allowed to vote in Palestinian national elections and to hold office. But to Israel, such participation had long been perceived as a threat to its claim to sole sovereignty over Jerusalem, and when the election was won in a surprise upset by the list affiliated with the Islamic movement Hamas, Israel refused to deal with it and soon served the four government officials who lived within Israel’s municipal boundaries with notices that their residencies were revoked.

The four fought revocation for 12 years. In the end, although the court could not approve the revocation of residency for breach of loyalty (since there was no such law on the books in 2006), it gave the government a six-month window to pass the legislation that would enable it to do so.

On March 7, 2018, the government amended the Entry into Israel Law of 1952 by adding Amendment No. 30 to Section 11(a), which granted the minister of interior the authority to revoke a permanent residency status for “breach of allegiance to the State of Israel.”91 In the law, “breach of allegiance to the State of Israel” is defined as one of the following:

Case Study Deported for Not “Showing Loyalty”: The Case of Four Jerusalem Officials Whose Residency Was Revoked after a 12-Year Legal Battle

When legally participating in your nation’s elections results in deportation from the city of your birth

(1) An act of terror as defined in the Counter-Terrorism Law, 5776-2016, aiding or soliciting such an act, or taking an active part in a terrorist organization or a designated terrorist organization as defined in said law;

(2) An act which constitutes treason under Sections 97–99 of the Penal Law, 5737-1977, or aggravated espionage under Section 113(b) of said law.92

This meant that “disloyalty” became grounds for loss of legal status and therefore, deportation from the country. The government then applied this new law retroactively to the four men, although they had also already served lengthy prison sentences since being elected. 

This law has made the already precarious status of Palestinian Jerusalemites considerably more precarious, since they now can be deported merely for their political views and actions.

In the intervening years while the parliamentarians’ case was being contested, the state revoked residency from a number of other Palestinian Jerusalemites on other, related “punitive” grounds.

In response to an inquiry submitted by the Community Action Center (al-Quds University) under the Freedom of Information Act about the number of permanent-resident statuses that had been revoked under the “breach of allegiance” criterion and for “security reasons,” the Ministry of Interior replied that from 2007 to 2017, 13 people had had their residency revoked on the basis of “breach of loyalty”; none for “security reasons.” This confirms that such a policy existed even before the 2018 law was passed.

Briefly, we can mention some of those other cases. In 2014, the ministry revoked the residencies of four Palestinian Jerusalemites—one woman, Nadia Abu Jamal, and her three children—as punishment for crimes committed by her husband, about which she insisted she had no prior knowledge. The four were forcibly displaced out of the city in 2017. The Israeli human rights organization HaMoked called this “a deliberate act of revenge against the woman and her children for a crime they had not committed.”93

In 2016, the interior minister at the time, Aryeh Deri, revoked residency from three youths from Sur Bahir: Mohammed Salah Mohammed Abu Kaf (who is serving a 20-year prison sentence in Israel), Walid Fares Mustafa Atrash (who is serving a 13-year sentence), and Abd Mahmoud Abd Rabu Dwayat (who is serving an 18-year sentence). All were convicted of throwing stones at passing Israeli cars in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Arnona (which abuts Sur Bahir), allegedly causing the death of a 64-year-old man.94 They were convicted based on their confessions, despite the existence of witnesses in the car who attested that the driver had had a convulsion before losing control of the car.95

The interior minister revoked their resident status based on Section 11(a) of the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law. He explained his decision at the time thus: “This is an usual [sic] move, but the severity of the four’s actions completely justifies my decision. . . . When conducting these terror attacks, the assailants took advantage of the freedom of movement they enjoyed as part of their resident status.”96

He continued, “The resident status includes within it basic commitment and loyalty. Residency, and certainly permanent residency, is a status that doesn’t just entail rights, without any obligations, and as such, it also includes the obligations and commitments of those who hold it and wish to continue holding it.”97

Case Study Forcibly Displaced for a Spouse’s Acts: The Case of Nadia Abu Jamal and Her Three Children

The state inflicts devastating punishment on a Palestinian family for the actions of a dead man; the consequences are lifelong and irrevocable, especially for the children.

In January 2017, the interior minister punitively revoked the residency status of 12 members of al-Qunbar family, while the case was still pending before the Supreme Court. One of the family’s sons, Fadi Ahmad Hamdan al-Qunbar, a 28-year-old father of four with no known connection to any group, had rammed his truck into a group of soldiers at the East Talpiot settlement near Jerusalem, killing four of them and injuring 17. He was shot dead on the spot, so there was no legal inquiry to determine whether this was intentional or accidental.

According to his sister, interviewed at the time, “We don’t know what happened with Fadi. He called his wife [before the attack] and told her to prepare lunch.”98

In addition to revoking the residency status of many family members, the authorities demolished the family home and withheld al-Qunbar’s dead body.99

Case Study Israel’s “Revenge Campaign” against the al-Qunbar Family Marks Significant Expansion of Punitive Residency Revocation Policy

In response to a 2017 attack, Israel expands the scope of punitive actions against surviving family members, including residency revocations.

In January 2017, the interior minister punitively revoked the residency status of 12 members of al-Qunbar family.

On September 3, 2020, the interior minister notified Jerusalem resident and Palestinian-French citizen Salah Hammouri, 35, of its intent to revoke his residency on the grounds of “breach of allegiance.” Hammouri is a human rights lawyer with Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association and is married to a French citizen with whom he has a child. His story is long and complex, beginning at age 16 with an arrest and including the deportation of his wife and child. Despite his attempt to appeal this notice, the interior minister informed Hammouri on June 29, 2021, that she was endorsing the recommendation to revoke his residency status.100 The final decision came on October 18, 2021, after both the attorney general and minister of justice also approved the revocation based on his alleged “breach of allegiance to the State of Israel” (which was based on secret information).101 This means that Hammouri would be deported from Israel and never allowed to return—also a case of illegal forcible transfer as with Nadia Abu Jamal. At the time of this writing, Hammouri was given 30 days to appeal.

In announcing the decision, the minister of interior stated that “the decision was necessary ‘to deter others from breaching allegiance to the State of Israel,’” an unsubtle allusion to the probability that more such cases would soon be forthcoming.102

Case Study Human Rights Lawyer Fights Deportation for Alleged “Breach of Loyalty”

A Palestinian Jerusalemite lawyer, long a target of state harassment, faces imminent deportation under the recent “breach of loyalty law.”


In sum, the vast majority of Palestinians in Jerusalem do not have full citizenship rights—neither Jordanian, nor Israeli, or nor Palestinian.103 To the contrary, they are stateless. The status granted by Israel, permanent residency, was precarious from the outset in 1967. But over the years, changes in policy have made it far more so.




The Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Washington DC, September 28, 1995, Annex III, Article 28, Chapter 3, Article XVII, Jurisdiction. Needless to say, these negotiations have yet to take place.


Usama Halabi, “The Legal Status of Palestinians in Jerusalem,” Palestine-Israel Journal of Politics, Economics and Culture 4, no. 1 (1997).


Gaza-Jericho Agreement, Annex II, Protocol Concerning Civil Affairs, Appendix C, May 4, 1995. The word “passport” appeared in Arabic; the words “travel document” appeared in Hebrew and English. Ingrid Jaradat-Gassner, “Residency Rights in the Territories Administered by the Palestinian National Authority: A Preliminary Report” (Bethlehem: Alternative Information Center, Project for Palestinian Refugee and Residency Rights, n.d.). In December 2015, President Mahmoud Abbas announced that the PNA would soon unilaterally change the name of the document to a State of Palestine Passport, a change that did not ultimately take place. Tamar Pileggi, “PA Readies to Issue ‘State of Palestine’ Passports,” Times of Israel, April 13, 2016.


Asem Khalil, “Palestinian Nationality and Citizenship: Current Challenges and Future Perspectives,” Carim Research Reports 2007/07 (Florence: Robert Schuman Institute for Advanced Studies, European University Institute, 2007). Although the UN recognized Palestine as a nonmember state in 2012, that did not affect the travel or citizenship rights of PA passport holders, or the title of the document. Column Lynch and Joel Greenberg, “U.N. Votes to Recognize Palestine as Non-member Observer State,” Washington Post, November 29, 2012; “Palestinian Passports Rejected by Citizens,” Jerusalem Post, July 4, 2013.


Islah Jad, Citizenship under a Prolonged Occupation: The Case of Palestine (Berkeley: Berkeley Electronic Press, 2005), 5.


Resource Information Center,” U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, accessed January 9, 2021.


On January 1, 2002, Israel banned holders of PA passports from the oPT from entering or leaving Israel through Ben Gurion Airport, even if they had another passport (i.e., dual citizens). (This ban remains in effect to the time of this writing in 2021.) Prior to this date, according to the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center, “Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza Strip were only allowed to use the airport after receiving an ‘airport’ permit from the Israeli authorities. This permit allowed the bearer to enter Israel for a period of only several hours during the traveler’s flight schedule. If for any reason, the flight was delayed or cancelled, the traveler had to request another permit.” Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, “Palestine: Whether a Palestinian Born in Gaza and Who Possesses a Palestinian Authority Travel Document Valid until 2002 Can Return to Gaza,” February 8, 2002.


Under the terms of the Oslo II Agreement, the PA was required to maintain a population registry and to “inform Israel of every change in its population registry, including, inter alia, any change in the place of residence of any resident.” The Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement, Annex III, Article 28.


Amnon Ramon and Yael Ronan, Residents Not Citizens: Israeli Policy towards the Arabs in East Jerusalem, 1967-2017 [in Hebrew] (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research, May 2017), 5, 41.


Moshe Amirav, Jerusalem Syndrome: The Palestinian-Israeli Battle for the Holy City (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 2015), 107.


Amirav, Jerusalem Syndrome, 108.


Book of Laws, 5712 (1952), 354. The decision to confer residency through this law was officially confirmed by Justice Aharon Barak in the decision on Awad v. Prime Minister (1988).


David Herling, “The Court, the Ministry, and the Law,” Israel Law Review 33, no. 1 (Winter 1999): 77n33.


Yael Stein, Forbidden Families: Family Unification and Child Registration in East Jerusalem (Jerusalem: B’Tselem and HaMoked—Center for the Defense of the Individual, January 2004), 5.


Estimates put the number at around 30,000. Lea Tsemel and Ingrid Jaradat-Gassner, “The Trap Is Closing on Palestinian Jerusalemites: Israel’s Demographic Policies in East Jerusalem from the 1967 Annexation to the Eve of the Final Status Negotiations (1996),” Memorandum No. 1/96 (Jerusalem: Alternative Information Center, February 1996), 7.


For example, according to Helga Tawil-Souri, “all cards are numerically coded, so the digitization of the numbering reveals to the authorities the number of the ID holder.” Helga Tawil-Souri, “Uneven Borders, Coloured (Im)mobilities: ID Cards in Palestine/Israel,” Geopolitics 17, no. 1 (2012).


These rights are “in theory.” Whether they are actually provided, and to what extended they are offered to Palestinians vs. Jews, is beyond the scope of this Backgrounder.


Halabi, “Legal Status.”


Eytan Halon, “Municipal Tax to Rise by 2.58% in 2020,” Jerusalem Post, May 22, 2019; Nimrod Bousso, “Jerusalem Property Taxes, Both Private and Commercial, Are Highest in Israel,” Haaretz, August 20, 2013. Palestinian Jerusalemites tend to be extremely compliant about paying their municipal taxes, because the arnona bill is one of the documents required to prove “center of life,” and there is a common misperception (and fear) that nonpayment can result in residency revocation. Nonpayment also incurs additional fines (and potential legal fees if the municipality pursues legal avenues to collect unpaid taxes).


According to its website, “The National Insurance Institute is responsible for the social security of the residents of Israel, and therefore guarantees basic subsistence to those unable to provide for themselves. The National Insurance Institute pays benefits to those eligible thus assisting people at times of personal crisis such as work termination, disability and work injury. Through the benefit payments the NII transfers income from financially well-off groups to groups that are weak or vulnerable, there by contributing to a more just distribution of national income and to the reduction of poverty in Israel.” “Benefits,” National Insurance Institute of Israel. The status of Jerusalemites has also made them highly vulnerable to manipulation within this system, a topic that is beyond the scope of this Backgrounder.


Tsemel and Jaradat-Gassner, “The Trap Is Closing,” 10.


Yael Stein, The Quiet Deportation: Revocation of Residency of East Jerusalem Palestinians (Jerusalem: Hamoked—Center for the Defense of the Individual and B’Tselem—The Israeli Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, April 1997), 4.


Halabi, “Legal Status.”


Tsemel and Jaradat-Gassner, “The Trap Is Closing,” 9.


Udi Shaham, “Capital Punishment? Nearly Half of Jerusalem’s Residents Aren’t Citizens,” Jerusalem Post, April 28, 2018. Note that appointments are not necessary at other such offices elsewhere in the city that serve the Jewish public. Nir Hasson, “The Line Outside Israel’s Sole Office in East Jerusalem Is Sparking Unrest among Palestinians,” Haaretz, March 9, 2018.


Shaham, “Capital Punishment?”


Badil, “The Permit Maze,” Electronic Intifada, November 4, 2003.


Israel: Law No. 5712-1952, Entry into Israel Law, September 5, 1952, accessed April 4, 2021.


Yael Stein, The Quiet Deportation Continues: Revocation of Residency and Denial of Social Rights of East Jerusalem Palestinians (Jerusalem: Hamoked—Center for the Defense of the Individual and B’Tselem—The Israeli Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, September 1998), 8.


Stein, The Quiet Deportation, 13.


Ramon and Ronan, Residents Not Citizens.


Stein, The Quiet Deportation, 13.


Tsemel and Jaradat-Gassner, “The Trap Is Closing,” 16.


Stein, The Quiet Deportation, 8n12.


State of Israel, Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel, July 30, 1980.


Leila Kawar, “Legality and [Dis]membership: Removal of Citizenship and the Creation of ‘Virtual Immigrants,’” Political Science Faculty Publications 3 (2010), 577.


Kawar, “Legality and [Dis]membership, 577;” “The Status of Palestinians in East Jerusalem,” Timeline, HaMoked, milestone entry for July 29, 1985.


HaMoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual, “English Translation of HCJ 282/88 Mubarak ‘Awad v. Yitzhak Shamir.”


HaMoked, “English Translation of HCJ 282/88.”


Herling, “The Court, the Ministry, and the Law,” 71.


HaMoked, “English Translation of HCJ 282/88,” 4.


HaMoked, “English Translation of HCJ 282/88,” 5.


United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, “English Translation of Israel: Law No. 5712-1952, Entry into Israel Law,” accessed October 4, 2020; see Ruth Lapidot, “The Status of Arabs of East Jerusalem,” in A City in Tangle: Jerusalem Lexicon, ed. Amnon Ramon (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Institute for Israel Study, 2003), 266; HaMoked, “English Translation of HCJ 282/88,” 6.


HaMoked, “English Translation of HCJ 282/88,” 7 (emphasis added).


Supreme Court Upholds Deportation of Mubarak Awad,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, June 6, 1988.


Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, “Stolen Childhood: Palestinian Children and the Structure of Genocidal Dispossession,” Settler Colonial Studies 6, no. 2 (2016).


Shalhoub-Kevorkian, “Stolen Childhood.”


Stein, The Quiet Deportation, 17.


Herling, “The Court, the Ministry, and the Law,” 89.


Danielle C. Jefferis, “Institutionalizing Statelessness: The Revocation of Residency Rights of Palestinians in East Jerusalem,” International Journal of Refugee Law 24, no. 2 (May 2012).


Until that time, Israel had a policy forbidding Palestinian Jerusalemite women from applying for residency status for their husbands through the family unification process. A petition to the High Court resulted in this policy being changed, but as part of that legal proceeding, the Ministry of Interior stated that applications from women for their husbands “would be considered only if the applicant could document that her ‘center of life’ was in the city.” Interior Ministry to the Alternative Information Center, June 16, 1994, as quoted in Tsemel and Jaradat-Gassner, “The Trap Is Closing,” 16. Significantly, this change in status resulted in a huge increase in the number of applications from Palestinian East Jerusalemite women on behalf of their spouses: from 650 in 1993, to 2,550 in 1994, and 1,800 in 1995. Stein, The Quiet Deportation, 9n16. Thus, the government clearly could have had a motivation to stiffen requirements for approvals at that particular point.


Response of the Interior Ministry to a Letter from Yael Stein of B’Tselem, April 2, 1997, as reproduced in Stein, The Quiet Deportation, appendix 2, 37.


Biography: Fathi Shiqaqi” [in Arabic], Palestinian Journeys, accessed September 23, 2020; “Twenty-Third Anniversary of the Martyrdom of Fathi Shiqaqi” [in Arabic], Wattan, October 26, 2018.


The Assassination of Fathi Shiqaqi,” The Velvet Rocket Online Magazine, October 17, 2015.


HaMoked, “HCJ 7023/94.”


HaMoked, “HCJ 7023/94.”


HaMoked, “HCJ 7023/94.”


Who Is an Israeli Resident,” National Insurance Institute of Israel, accessed September 27, 2020.


Joshua Pex, “Establishing Your Center of Life in Israel,” Cohen, Decker, Pex & Brosh, last modified July 30, 2018.


“Who Is an Israeli Resident”; Pex, “Establishing Your Center of Life.”


“Who Is an Israeli Resident.”


Danielle C. Jefferis, “The ‘Center of Life’ Policy: Institutionalizing Statelessness in East Jerusalem,” Jerusalem Quarterly 50 (2012): 94–103.


Jefferis, “Institutionalizing Statelessness.”


Stein, The Quiet Deportation Continues, 13.


Stein, The Quiet Deportation Continues, 13.


Jerusalem Story interview with attorney Nasser Odeh.


The State Comptroller at that time was Russian-born Miriam Ben-Porat, an Israeli jurist who was the first (and only) woman who ever held the position. Prior to assuming it, she had been the first woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court. She had a reputation for toughness and was known as the “Iron Lady.”


State Comptroller, Annual Report No. 47 (1996), 576, as cited in Stein, The Quiet Deportation Continues, 10.


Stein, The Quiet Deportation, 12.


Herling, “The Court, the Ministry, and the Law,” 94.


Stein, The Quiet Deportation Continues, 24–46.


Tsemel and Jaradat-Gassner, “The Trap Is Closing,” 17.


Stein, The Quiet Deportation Continues, 24.


Stein, The Quiet Deportation, 12.


Stein, The Quiet Deportation, 14.


Ramon and Ronan, Residents Not Citizens.


East Jerusalem,” B’Tselem, last modified January 27, 2019; The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), East Jerusalem: Facts and Figures 2019, May 2019; “Israel Passes Law to Strip Residency of Jerusalem’s Palestinians,” Al Jazeera, March 7, 2018.


Statistics on Revocation of Residency in East Jerusalem,” B’Tselem, last modified May 23, 2019.


Al-Haq, “Punitive Residency Revocation.”


Noga Kadman and Andrea Szlecsan, Temporary Order? Life in East Jerusalem under the Shadow of the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Jerusalem: HaMoked—Center for the Defense of the Individual, September 2014), 9.


HaMoked, “English Translation of HCJ 2227/98,” 2–3.


Given that the state’s case against Mubarak Awad was perfused with findings on his having participated in nonviolent resistance during the Intifada, one could see that as the earliest such case. However, the actual decision in the Awad case relied on the facts of his absence from the country and the provisions of the Entry into Israel Law, not his political activity. Simply put, the majority opinion, as written by Chief Justice Aharon Barak, concluded that “his center of life is no longer the country but the USA.” See HaMoked, “English Translation of HCJ 282/88 Mubarak ‘Awad v. Yitzhak Shamir, Prime Minister and Minister of Interior and Police Minister.” But this case was a harbinger of things to come.


HaMoked, “Unofficial Translation of Entry into Israel Law (Amendment No. 30), 5778-2018,” Israeli Knesset, accessed May 31, 2020.


HaMoked, “Unofficial Translation of Entry into Israel Law.”


Roi Yanovsky, “Driver Dies by Accident Possibly Caused by Stone Throwing,” Ynet News, September 14, 2015.


Yanovsky, “Driver Dies.”


Moran Azulay, “Interior Minister Revokes Residency of 4 East Jerusalem Terrorists,” Ynet News, January 21, 2016.


Azulay, “Interior Minister Revokes Residency” (emphasis added).


Maureen Clare Murphy, “Israel Insists Attack on Soldiers in Occupied Territory Is ‘Terror,’” Electronic Intifada, January 9, 2017.


Murphy, “Israel Insists.”


Human Rights Defenders, “Israel-OPT: [Follow Up] Ongoing Judicial Harassment of Salah Hamouri,” Fidh: International Federation for Human Rights, July 8, 2021.


Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, “Israeli Minister of Interior to Officially Revoke Permanent Residency of Lawyer Salah Hammouri,” October 18, 2021.


Ramon and Ronan, Residents Not Citizens, 3.

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