Netanyahu: Israel May Strip East Jerusalem Palestinians of Residency

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering stripping some 80,000 Palestinians living in East Jerusalem of their residency status in response to a wave of attacks committed by Palestinians against Israelis in the city, according to Israeli media reports.

The Israeli leader said that he was considering the measure for the thousands of Palestinians living within Jerusalem's borders but on the West Bank side of the Israeli security fence in comments made to the Israeli parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday, Israeli news site Maariv reported.

He also told the committee that he was planning to tour the East Jerusalem area to see the situation in its neighborhoods before deciding on the controversial measure. He said he would be accompanied by some cabinet members, who were not identified,

Netanyahu had also raised the issue at a security cabinet meeting two weeks ago, according to The Times of Israel. "We need to examine the possibility of canceling their residency. There needs to be a discussion about it," he reportedly said.

Hanan Ashrawi, an executive committee member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, told Reuters in a statement that the measure, if approved, would escalate tensions in the city and deny Palestinians the basic rights they receive as residents of the city.

"This alarming escalation, an inhuman and illegal measure, must be stopped immediately," she said.

According to Israeli journalists, this represents the first time that Netanyahu, currently in his fourth term as Israeli prime minister, has raised the possibility of dividing the city that the government had previously maintained was a united city for both Jews and Arabs. The city was captured in the 1967 Six Day War and Israel views it as the undivided capital of the country.

However, the spate of violence on Israel's streets appears to have forced a change in policy. Since the start of October, Palestinian attackers have killed 10 Israelis. In the same period, Israeli forces have killed 54 Palestinians, 27 that Israel says were attackers.

Palestinians in East Jerusalem who hold permanent residency, through the provision of Israeli-issued blue ID cards, have the right to social benefits and to vote in local elections but not national elections. Israeli rights group B'Tselem said in a 2010 article that Israel treats the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem as "immigrants" even though they were "born in Jerusalem, lived in the city and have no other home."

Israel annexed the eastern part of the city in 1967 and expanded Jerusalem's borders to include some areas of the West Bank. A number of districts of East Jerusalem, such as the Shuafat neighbourhood, were cut off from the rest of the city when Israel built a wall for what it says is security reasons after a spate of suicide bombings during the Second Intifada, or uprising. Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of any future Palestinian state.

Palestinian opponents of the wall's construction say that it was a veiled land-grab of West Bank territory undertaken on the pretext of security. Israelis say that the wall's construction has resulted in a decrease in suicide bombings since the early 2000s.

Following the attacks on Jerusalem's streets in recent weeks, the city's authorities built a concrete wall between Jewish areas of the city and Arab-majority areas of East Jerusalem, from which some of the attackers had traveled to conduct their attacks. Netanyahu halted the measure last week after criticism from Israeli politicians that it divided the city.