Image of Israeli passports

The Israeli interior ministry has almost halted processing all citizenship applications for Palestinians living in occupied East Jerusalem, the Safa news agency reported yesterday.

According to a statement issued by Israeli lawyer Leora Bechor, the majority of Palestinians living in East Jerusalem do not hold Israeli citizenship, noting that they only have a permanent residency.

She said that this status makes it easy for the Israeli occupation authorities to expel them from the city where they were born and grew up.

Due to increasing Israeli campaign to revoke permanent residency status since 2000, many Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem started to apply for Israeli citizenships.

In a report, the Times of Israel said that between 2003 and 2013, Israel denied or delayed about half of the citizenship applications submitted by Palestinians living in East Jerusalem. The report also said that recently, Israel has been failing to accept almost all applications.

The same report said that there are some 350,000 Palestinians living in occupied East Jerusalem. As permanent residents, the report said, they pay taxes and are entitled to state benefits like healthcare and social security.

However, they cannot vote in national elections, apply for an Israeli passport, nor run for mayor in their own city.

According to the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, around 80 per cent of the Palestinians in East Jerusalem live below the poverty line.

The Israeli newspaper reported that 14,629 permanent residents of East Jerusalem have applied to become Israeli citizens since 2003, including 4,152 who applied between 2014 and September 2016. It noted that out of the 4,152 applications, the Israeli authorities approved 84 and rejected 161 while the remainder are pending processing.

In a telephone call with the Israeli interior ministry in Jerusalem, Bechor called for setting a timetable for processing the citizenship applications similar to processing any other issues.