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Lawyers say Israeli authorities blocking efforts by Palestinian Jerusalemites to acquire citizenship

Palestinians gather to perform the Friday prayer at Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound in Jerusalem on 4 January 2019. [Mostafa Alkharouf - Anadolu Agency ]
Palestinians gather to perform the Friday prayer at Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound in Jerusalem on 4 January 2019. [Mostafa Alkharouf - Anadolu Agency ]

Lawyers working on Palestinian Jerusalemites’ attempts to acquire Israeli citizenship believe that the government is deliberating blocking such applications, reported Haaretz.

According to the paper, “while the number of applications for citizenship has grown, from 69 in 2003 to more than 1,000 in 2018, very few receive a positive response”.

Lawyers familiar with the cases “are convinced that this is not something initiated by officials in East Jerusalem but rather a deliberate Interior Ministry policy to prevent the city’s Palestinians from becoming citizens”, Haaretz reported.

“It’s clear that the Interior Ministry doesn’t want these applications. They don’t want to pollute the Population Registry with more Palestinians,” said Adi Lustigman, a lawyer specializing in the issue.

Israel’s Interior Ministry has denied that it is deliberately making it difficult for East Jerusalemites to apply for citizenship, “and explained that the delays are the result of the volume of requests”.

READ: While the Arab world looks the other way, Israel’s Judaisation of Jerusalem is ongoing 

More than 95 percent of occupied East Jerusalem’s Palestinians have residency status rather than citizenship. Israel unilaterally and illegally annexed the area after 1967.

“Although in principle the law allows Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem to receive Israeli citizenship”, Haaretz explained, “the obstacles on the way have become more and more difficult over the years. Simply getting an appointment to present the necessary documents has taken three years. Then it’s another three to four years until there is a decision”.

In addition, “ground for rejection of applications include insufficient Hebrew, questions about loyalty to the country and suspicion that the applicant owns property in the West Bank”.

Palestinians with residency status are entitled to social welfare but can not vote in Knesset elections. They are also unable to get an Israeli passport, “instead receiving a travel document that requires visa applications in most countries”. Crucially, they can also be stripped of their residency status if they spend an extended period of time outside of Jerusalem.

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