JERUSALEM – Four senior Hamas officials will appeal Israel's decision to revoke their Jerusalem residency rights, the Palestinian justice minister said Wednesday.
Israel decided Tuesday to strip three Hamas legislators and a Cabinet minister of their Israeli-issued identity cards, which grant them permanent residency in Jerusalem and freedom of movement in Israel.
The decision was an unprecedented punishment for the Hamas-led Palestinian government's refusal to denounce a suicide bombing by another militant group, Islamic Jihad. The bombing outside a Tel Aviv restaurant Monday killed nine civilians and wounded dozens.
Palestinian Justice Minister Ahmed Khaldi said the Hamas government would back the lawmakers' appeal to Israel's Supreme Court, in part because of Palestinian concerns that Israel was trying to establish a precedent to strip more Jerusalem Palestinians of their residency rights.
Gideon Meir, a senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official, brushed aside those concerns. "There is one reason (for revoking the residency rights), and that reason is terrorism," Meir said. "Someone who is involved in terrorist attacks has to take the consequences."
Khaldi said he believed the four have a strong case. "Israel cannot prove that they were involved in any action that violated the law," he said.
Israel's decision drew attention to the complicated legal standing of more than 200,000 Palestinians living in east Jerusalem, the sector Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast War and annexed to its capital.
Most of the Palestinians in Jerusalem hold permanent residency cards, having turned down Israel's offer of citizenship because they felt this would mean accepting Israel's annexation. The Palestinians want to establish their future capital in east Jerusalem.
As permanent residents, they pay Israeli taxes and are eligible for benefits such as health insurance and social security. However, they participate in Palestinian, rather than Israeli parliament elections. Residency cards have been revoked by the Israeli Interior Ministry if the holders cannot prove that the center of their life is in the city.
However, Jerusalem residency rights had never been revoked for punitive reasons.
The Israeli identity cards have become increasingly valuable to Palestinians because of growing Israeli travel restrictions and the construction of a separation barrier between Jerusalem and the West Bank. Without the permits, the four Hamas officials would likely be forced out of their homes and into the West Bank.
Mohammed Abu Teir, one of the four lawmakers, said they would take the case to the Hague-based International Court of Justice if necessary.
"We are going to ask the Arab and Islamic countries to appeal to the international community to abort this decision," he added.