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Israel accelerates processing of East Jerusalem Palestinians’ citizenship applications, most rejected

Israeli authorities dramatically accelerated the processing of citizenship applications by Palestinian residents of occupied East Jerusalem in 2019, reported Haaretz, with the majority rejected.

A total of 1,361 applications were rejected last year, up from 340 in 2018, while the number of Palestinian applicants who successfully received citizenship rose to 1,200, from 362 in 2018.

The latter figure represents the largest number since Israel’s military occupation began in 1967.

According to Haaretz, “both increases stemmed from the fact that the Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority has sped up its handling of such applications following criticism of its slow pace by the High Court of Justice [the Supreme Court]”.

When Israel illegally annexed the eastern portion of the city, authorities granted Palestinian inhabitants “permanent residency”, rather than citizenship, and 95 per cent of Palestinians in East Jerusalem still have this same status.

As the report noted, “as permanent residents, they have no passports and no right to vote in Knesset elections, and they can lose their social security benefits or even their residency if the state suspects that the centre of their life is in the West Bank rather than Israel”.

Since 2009, around 800-1,000 Palestinians have filed citizenship applications annually, but on average, only about 400 Palestinians a year actually receive citizenship.

Reasons given by the Population Authority for refusing citizenship include “insufficient knowledge of Hebrew, suspicion that the applicant’s centre of life isn’t in Israel (for instance, if the applicant owns property in the West Bank) or a close relationship with someone involved in terrorism”.

Haaretz said that “lawyers who handle such applications say that as the application process sped up, the reasons for rejections multiplied.”

In one example, an applicant “was rejected because he lives in a shack with no running water or electricity”, while in another case, “a Palestinian woman born in East Jerusalem was rejected because her father-in-law once owned an apartment outside Jerusalem”. Another applicant was rejected “because she failed the Hebrew test”.