Palestinians Seeking Israeli Citizenship
As the reality of Palestinian autonomy takes hold, with a permanent division of Jerusalem a likely outcome, thousands of Palestinians are applying for Israeli citizenship.
Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem calling to set up an appointment with the Interior Ministry to apply for an Israeli citizenship will discover the next available interview date is only in April.
In the months leading up to the upcoming Annapolis peace conference talk of a future division of the city has prompted a staggering increase in nationalization requests by Palestinians seeking to escape life under the Palestinian Authority.
Some 250,000 Palestinians currently reside in Jerusalem. Only 12,000 of them have sought to obtain an Israeli citizenship since 1967, an average of about 300 new citizens a year. But over the past four months the Interior Ministry has registered an unprecedented 3,000 applications, primarily residents of the Arab neighborhoods unlikely to remain under Israeli sovereignty according to the political initiative currently on the agenda.
The 240,000 non-naturalized Palestinians in the city currently hold the status of permanent residents. As Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem they were also eligible to participate in the elections held by the Palestinian Authority. As accepting Israeli citizenship was viewed by many within the community as tantamount to treason, most Palestinians opted to remain permanent residents and enjoy the benefits of living under Israeli sovereignty — full welfare rights, municipal voting rights and unrestricted movement – without putting their loyalty to the Palestinian Authority into question.
Forced to chose, though, many if not most would likely prefer to remain in a thriving democracy than under the yoke of Hamas governance. As Donald Sensing points out, though, the former option likely won’t be available.
[T]he blunt fact is that Israel is not about to receive these vast numbers of Palestinians. Several officials we spoke to, including very senior persons at Israel’s Foreign Ministry, indicated clearly that they are well aware of the demographics between Jews and Arabs in and around Israel. Almost one-fourth of Israelis are Muslims. One official said clearly that because Israel is a democracy, it simply was unthinkable that its government would allow massive numbers of Palestinian Muslims to take up citizenship and ultimately vote the Jewish state out of existence.
Given that its identity as a Jewish state is the sine qua non of Israel — for which blood has been repeatedly shed over the last six decades — one would think not.