Israel: Benjamin Netanyahu orders residency status review of east Jerusalem Palestinians

The US has condemned the proposal - which could affect the residency rights of tens of thousands of Palestinians 

The Obama administration has rushed to express opposition to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's call to review the residency status of Palestinians in east Jerusalem.

Mr Netanyahu has reportedly ordered a review of the status of certain Palestinian neighbourhoods in east Jerusalem, in a move which could affect the residency rights of tens of thousands of people.

Such a move would be as part of possible measures aimed halting an ongoing spate of terror attacks on Israelis in the West Bank.

An official speaking anonymously said that Mr Netanyahu recently ordered the review of Jerusalem neighbourhoods that lie outside Israel’s West Bank separation barrier, Israeli state television reported. Netanyahu’s comments have since been confirmed by an Israeli official, according to AP.

One third of the city’s Palestinians, up to 100,000 people, live outside the barrier.

The official, however, said there was no discussion of the matter at the forum and Mr Netanyahu did not ask that it be included on the agenda of a future meeting.

Responding to reports that Israel may revoke travel rights of some Palestinians in east Jerusalem, the US State Department remarked such a move would be “of concern”.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that as far as the US government knows, Israel is not currently considering such a move.

Though he added that if it were, "it would obviously be of some concern to us".

The majority of Jerusalem’s Palestinian population do not have citizenship, but hold Israeli residency rights.

Unlike Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Palestinians in east Jerusalem currently receive Israeli social benefits and can move freely in the country.

Stripping them of residency rights would affect their ability to access care and social services, and impact on their ability to work and travel inside Israel.

It is impossible to give them all of the rights without having them fulfil all of their responsibilities,” Channel Two quoted Mr Netanyahu as saying.

According to the report on Israel’s Channel 2, the cabinet meeting convened two weeks ago to discuss the escalating violence between Israelis and Palestinians in east Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the possibility of revoking the resident status of Palestinians beyond the separation barrier should be considered, and called for a separate meeting to discuss the matter.

“We have to think about what to do. There are all sorts of possibilities. But it is impossible to give them all of the rights without having them fulfil all of their responsibilities,” Channel Two quoted Mr Netanyahu as saying.

A source who took part in the meeting told Haaretz that ministers present were surprised by Mr Netanyahu’s remarks, but that a discussion did not ensue.

“There is no such process to revoke the residency or citizenship of thousands of people,” he told the newspaper.

The al-Aqsa mosque

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization called the move ‘an alarming escalation’.

Adnan Husseini, Palestinian minister of Jerusalem affairs told AP: “If this desire by Netanyahu is translated into a decision, then this will be an act of ethnic cleansing because it targets one-third of the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem.”

He said Israeli officials have been pressuring Palestinians in attempts to reduce their numbers in the city. ”They demolish houses and don't give permits for building, they besiege the Palestinian quarters in the city. All of this will only lead to more deterioration in the city,“ Mr Husseini said.

Though such a decision does not appear to be politically feasible, it serves to heighten tensions between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank.

There have been almost daily Palestinian attacks on Israeli targets, which started in east Jerusalem earlier this month and have spread to the West Bank.

10 Israelis have died, mostly in stabbings, while 51 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, including 30 who Israel claims were attackers.

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