In 2005, operating in accordance with the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), the EU and Israel formally adopted the EU-Israel Action Plan. The agreement committed both actors to engagement in political dialogue and cooperation to “promote the shared values of democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights and international humanitarian law (…) To Promote and protect rights of minorities, including enhancing political, economic, social and cultural opportunities for all citizens and lawful residents.” Eight years later, however, not only has the situation of Palestinians in Jerusalem not improved, it has further deteriorated.
Indeed Palestinian residence in Jerusalem has increasingly been represented by Israel as both a security and demographic threat, with the occupying state working to legitimize the use of extraordinary measures against it. These have included discriminatory legislation targeting the basic rights of Palestinians living in Jerusalem.
Residency Rights Violations in Jerusalem
Israel’s objective in Jerusalem has consistently been to expel the Palestinian population from the city. The Jerusalem Master Plan 2000, which outlines its aims for future development, overtly states this goal of securing a Jewish majority, indicating an ideal demographic ratio of 70% Jewish to 30% Arab(1). With the Palestinian population currently making up 36% of the population, the city’s subsequent policies work to meet this end through systematically displacing the Palestinian population in Jerusalem, stripping them of their rights to reside within the city and thus creating a new community of stateless persons. Such policies – both explicit and implicit – have resulted in the reported revocation of more than 14,000 Palestinian residencies in Jerusalem since 1967, including 116 in 2012 (2)
Residency Status and the “Centre of Life” Policy
Palestinians living within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries are granted permanent residency status rather than citizenship. Residents receive a unique ID that permits them access to a limited collection of rights, while denying them others – including the right to travel freely across Israeli borders. In order to preserve essential civil liberties, such as the right to health insurance and the ability to work within Israel, Palestinians living in Jerusalem are continuously forced to prove their residence within the city.
Under this procedure, the Ministry of Interior may at any time call upon a resident to prove that Jerusalem remains his or her centre of life. Forms of proof are varied and often arbitrarily thorough, requiring evidence of active residence within the city over the previous 5 years, property taxes and utility bills for the previous 3 years, school certificates indicating a child’s attendance at a school located within Jerusalem, proof of health insurance, and work certificates. These requirements – to which Jewish citizens are not subjected to – are so rigorous that many Palestinians who have never left Jerusalem for extended periods of time cannot meet them (3)
The 2003 Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law effectively ceased the processing of all family reunification applications for spouses and children of Palestinian Jerusalemites from the West Bank and Gaza. Introduced as a temporary measure, the law continues to be renewed each year and accordingly prevents any such family members from receiving Jerusalem permanent residency status. Families who choose to live together are therefore either forced to reside within the city illegally or obliged to move outside, increasing the threat of residency revocation for the Jerusalemite spouse. Since 1967, more than 120,000 applications for family reunification have been denied (4)
While a child born to Israeli nationals is automatically granted Israeli citizenship at birth, Palestinian children born to parents with permanent Jerusalem residency are not afforded the same entitlement. Rather, they have until the age of 14 to register for residency status with the Israeli Ministry of Interior. Boasting exclusive authority in the decision process, the MOI often cites groundless reasons for denying children such IDs. As of 2011, over 10,000 children remained unregistered in Jerusalem (5) and thus without essential social benefits, including health insurance.
Current EU Actions Toward Rights Violations in Jerusalem
The clear and longstanding position of the EU regarding East Jerusalem (all settlements are illegal under international law; East Jerusalem is part of occupied Palestinian territory; the EU does not recognize the de facto annexation of East Jerusalem by Israel) has been reiterated in the Council Conclusions on the Middle East Peace Process (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012,).
Notwithstanding the EU’s position, and as accurately developed in the EU Heads of Mission Report (2011 and 2012), there is, in East Jerusalem, “a continued expansion of Israeli settlements, restrictive zoning and planning, frequent house demolitions and evictions, an inequitable education policy, difficult access to health care for Palestinians, inadequate provision of resources and investment and precarious residency issue that have not only serious humanitarian consequences, but also undermine the Palestinian presence in East Jerusalem”.
Israel is bound by both international human rights law and international humanitarian law, and the current laws, policies and practices it applies toward Palestinians in East Jerusalem render the country in violation of several major provisions of both. Israel must remedy these violations in order to fulfil its obligations as an occupying power, and in order to pave the way for a viable, peaceful and just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The EU displays a critical awareness of the problems that Palestinians in Jerusalem face – as reflected in the ENP Progress Report published by the European Commission – particularly with regard to discrimination in the exercise of their residency rights. However, the EU has under-exploited the various instruments at its disposal that would provide it with some leverage:
– The EU has never conditioned its bilateral relations with Israel on tangible improvements in the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem.
– All EU institutions, including the European Parliament, have failed to use their declaratory diplomacy to address discrimination against Palestinians in Jerusalem.
With these considerations, it is evident that the EU-Israel bilateral relationship and the policy instrument within it remain an adequate policy framework for the EU to address the situation of Palestinians in Jerusalem, and the EU must make greater use of them.
Therefore, the JERUSALEMITES CAMPAIGN and ECCP (European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine) call upon the EU to:
1. Publicly support and promote the rights of Palestinians living in Jerusalem
2. Strengthen its political dialogue with Israel on the rights of Palestinians in Jerusalem to ensure tangible process on the ground. The EU should ensure that concerns are raised at the highest political level as well as in bilateral relations with Israel.
3. Act according to its stated position and take concrete measures to pressure the Israeli government to abide by its international obligations. The EU-Israel Association Agreement and Israeli participation in EU programs must be immediately suspended as long as Israel does not comply with International Law, International Human Rights Law and the Association Agreement itself (article 2 and art. 83).
4. The EU must assume its legal obligations by holding Israel accountable for its continued violations within appropriate EU bodies and other relevant forums.
European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine
Here you can download statement in arabic
1 [ Israel. Jerusalem Municipality. City Planning Department. Local Outline Plan: Jerusalem 2004. ]
2. [ Hamoked. Israel Continues Its “Quiet Deportation” Policy. N.p., 28 Apr. 2013.] and directly affected countless more.
3 [ Jefferis, Danielle C. “Institutionalizing Statelessness: The Revocation of Residency Rights of Palestinians in East Jerusalem.” International Journal of Refugee Law 24.2 (2012): 202-30.].
4. [ U.N. Information System on the Question of Palestine. The situation of youth and women in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. 1st Plenary Meeting. Paris, France. 30 March 2012. ].
5. [ U.N. Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, 47th Session. Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under articles 16 and 17 of the Covenant. (E/C.12/ISR/CO/3). 16 December 2011. ]