Why Palestinians Want Israeli Citizenship
by Khaled Abu Toameh
October 23, 2012 at 5:00 am
There is no denying that by applying for Israeli citizenship, in defiance of PLO and Hamas warnings, they are actually making clear that they would rather live under Israel than any Arab rule.
The Palestinian Authority says it is worried because of the rise in the number of Palestinians from Jerusalem who are seeking Israeli citizenship.
Hatem Abdel Kader, who is in charge of the “Jerusalem Portfolio” in the ruling Fatah faction in the West Bank, revealed that more than 10,000 Palestinians from Jerusalem have been granted Israeli citizenship.
Abdel Kader attributed the growing phenomenon to the failure of the Palestinian Authority and the Arab and Islamic countries to help the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem.
In other words, he is admitting that Israel is doing more for these Palestinians than the Palestinian leadership and the entire Arab and Islamic countries.
According to figures released by the Israeli Ministry of Interior, 3,374 Palestinians obtained Israeli citizenship in the past decade.
According to ministry officials, in the past two years, the number of applicants for Israeli citizenship has intensified.
Palestinians living in Jerusalem enjoy the status of permanent residents of Israel. This means that they hold Israeli ID cards but do not have Israeli passports.
As permanent residents, they are entitled to all the rights of an Israeli citizen, with the exception of voting in general elections.
Israeli law, however, allows any resident to apply for citizenship.
Yet, in the first two decades since Israel annexed east Jerusalem after 1967, few Palestinians applied for citizenship.
At that time, it was considered an act of treason to apply for Israeli citizenship; the PLO openly threatened Palestinians who obtained it.
But the trend changed after the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 and, a year later, the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Suddenly, the number of applicants increased dramatically and Palestinians were no longer afraid or ashamed to stand outside the offices of the Interior Ministry in Jerusalem to apply for Israeli citizenship.
The main reason the Palestinians rushed to apply for citizenship was their fear that Israel would also cede control over east Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority.
Their biggest fear was they would lose all the privileges they enjoy as residents living under Israeli sovereignty, including free health care and education, and freedom of movement and work.
In addition, the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem realized that despite all the difficulties they face in Israel, their living conditions were still far much better than those living under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority.
Lack of democracy and massive financial corruption under the Palestinian Authority also drove many Palestinian Jerusalemites to apply for Israeli citizenship as a way of ensuring that they would always remain under Israeli sovereignty.
As one Palestinian explained, “I prefer the hell of the Jews to the paradise of Hamas or Yasser Arafat.”
Another reason Palestinians are rushing to apply for Israeli citizenship is their fear that the Israeli authorities may revoke their Israeli-issued ID cards.
According to the ministry regulations, Palestinian residents of the city who move to live outside the country automatically lose their status as permanent residents.
In the past decade, many Palestinian residents who moved to the West bank or left Israel lost their Israeli-issued ID cards.
Many of those who have applied for Israeli citizenship are are Christians from Jerusalem who are also afraid of ending up under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority or Hamas.
Ironically, obtaining Israeli citizenship has become a way for Palestinians to ensure their social, economic, health and education rights in the country.
There is no denying that applying for Israeli citizenship, in defiance of PLO and Hamas warnings, is also a political statement on the part of the applicants. They are actually making clear that they would prefer to live under Israel than any Arab rule.