PA orders Palestinian landlords to seek approval for Israeli-Arab tenants

Palestinian landlords wishing to lease properties to Palestinians who hold Israeli ID cards are now required to receive permission from the Palestinian Authority.

The measure, announced last week by the PA, has drawn sharp criticism from Arab residents of east Jerusalem, who hold Israeli ID cards. Tens of thousands of east Jerusalem residents live in PA-controlled cities and villages in the West Bank near Jerusalem but located outside the city’s municipal boundaries.

The PA said that “anyone who wishes to rent out a property to a Palestinian who holds an Israeli ID card must obtain permission from [his or her local] authority.”

The PA’s General Intelligence and Preventive Security Forces will conduct a security check of the tenants and present their recommendations within two weeks, the PA government stated.

A PA official in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post that the measure was taken for “security and safety reasons.”

Several Palestinian holders of Israeli ID cards who rented apartments and houses in the West Bank in recent years, the official said, were involved in various crimes, including drug trafficking and prostitution.

Many Arab residents of east Jerusalem, especially those living outside the municipal boundaries of the city, protested against the new measure.

Some expressed fear that landlords who don’t want to share details about their properties and tenants with the PA security forces will stop doing business with east Jerusalem residents. Others expressed fear that Israeli authorities may find out that they had moved to live in the West Bank and subsequently revoke their Israeli ID cards.

As permanent residents of Jerusalem, 300,000 Arabs in the city hold Israeli ID cards. However, Israel’s Interior Ministry is authorized to revoke the residency of any resident who moves to live outside the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem or leaves the country for more than seven years.

Those who hold Israeli ID cards enjoy all the rights of an Israeli citizen, with the exception of voting in the general election. The majority of the Arab residents of Jerusalem don’t have Israeli citizenship, although they are entitled to apply for it. Only a few thousand Arab residents have applied for and obtained Israeli citizenship in the past five decades.

Those whose status as permanent residents is revoked lose not only their Israeli ID card but all privileges granted to Israelis, including National Health Insurance participation, compensation and public health fund membership.

Ziad Abu Zayyad, a prominent Palestinian journalist and former PA minister from the village of Eizariya, criticized the move as “unproductive” and “unjustified.” The new measure, he added, was also “wrapped with ignorance.”

Noting that the decision was based on a 1953 [Jordanian] law regarding the rental and sale of property to foreigners, he complained that Arabs who hold Israeli ID cards were being equated with foreigners.

“The Palestinians in Jerusalem are not foreigners,” Abu Zayyad said in a Facebook post. “They are Palestinians by blood, bone and identity.”

Abu Zayyad expressed fear that the new measure would facilitate Israeli authorities’ effort to find out who has left Jerusalem and moved to live in the West Bank.

“Did those who took this decision realize that it poses a catastrophe to the lives and rights of the residents of Jerusalem?” he asked.

A journalist from east Jerusalem said that this was “one of the stupidest and most dangerous decisions” taken by the PA. “Instead of helping the Palestinians in Jerusalem, the Palestinian Authority is stabbing them in the back,” he told the Post.

Responding to the wave of criticism, the PA government clarified that the new measure refers to Arabs who are citizens, and not residents, of Israel. Despite the clarification, the government did not change the wording of its decision, which continues to mention “Palestinian holders of Israeli ID cards.”

Dozens of Arab-Israeli families live in Ramallah, Jericho and Bethlehem. In recent years, several Arab Israelis have also bought apartments in the new Palestinian city of Rawabi, northwest of Ramallah.

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