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15.3.2017

The Supreme Court in a unanimous decision: the Israeli status of East Jerusalem residents is unique by virtue of the fact that they were born here; therefore, an expired residency status may be restored

Since 1967, the Ministry of Interior has been pursuing an outright wrongful policy, aimed at driving the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem away from the city in order to achieve a solid Jewish majority. As part of this policy, the Ministry of Inferior cites, inter alia, the ‘Awad judgment of 1988, whereby the Israeli status of East Jerusalem Palestinians may expire “by itself” after they move their “center-of-life” outside Israel or acquire status in another country.

In 2011, HaMoked, together with other human rights organizations, petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ) against the Ministry of Interior’s status revocation policy, implemented based on the ‘Awad case. The organizations asserted that in the case of the residents of East Jerusalem, which was their long-established home, it should be determined that their status could not expire following a long stay abroad or the acquisition of foreign status, and that their right to return to their homeland should be theirs forever. The petition was deleted in 2012, after the Supreme Court justices refused to review it on its merits. Therefore, HaMoked decided to ask to join as amicus curiae any Supreme Court proceedings in appeals against judgments upholding the revocation of status of East Jerusalem residents.

Thus in the present case, concerning a man born in East Jerusalem, who  relocated with his parents to the United States as a minor and later received US citizenship. Although he renewed his ties with Israel as an adult and returned to live in the country permanently – the Court for Administrative Affairs rejected the man’s petition to restore his status in Israel. On May 8, 2014, the man appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.

In the judgment, issued on March 14, 2017, the Supreme Court justices unanimously accepted the appeal, ruling that the status of East Jerusalem residents is unique by virtue of their being “indigenous inhabitants” (in the words of Justice Mazuz), unlike immigrants. Furthermore, even if their residency status expired following a long stay abroad – they have the principle right to have it restored. Justice Vogelman held that the affinity to Israel of the East Jerusalem residents, as native inhabitants and contrary to immigrants, is so deep that even if their Israeli status “expires” following transfer of “center of life” abroad, the Minister of Interior must give considerable weight to “the unique position of these residents… as people who were born in this area – and sometimes their parents and parents’ parents were also born here – and who have been maintaining in it family and community life for years”.
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