Dalia Nammari
Associated Press
June 24, 2010 - 12:00am

The Palestinian president warned Thursday that Israel's plan to expel four Hamas politicians from Jerusalem could pose a new obstacle to peace and set a dangerous precedent for expelling Arabs from the disputed city based on their political views.

The expulsions of the three Palestinian lawmakers and a former Cabinet minister could start as early as Friday.

Israel revoked the Jerusalem residency rights of the four in 2006 and arrested them because they belong to Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls the Gaza Strip and has carried out scores of deadly attack against Israelis. The expulsion orders were delayed because the men have been in prison until recently.

Israel has stripped some 13,000 Palestinians of their residency rights in east Jerusalem since capturing and annexing the area in the 1967 Mideast War, according to government statistics obtained by the Israeli human rights group HaMoked. However, in those cases, Israel cited administrative reasons such staying away from the city for too long.

Human rights activists said revoking the Jerusalem IDs of the Hamas politicians marks the first time Israel has acted against Arab residents of Jerusalem because of their political affiliation.

"This is a very dangerous precedent," Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said. "We won't accept it. We won't allow it. We won't just overlook it. ... We declare herewith that the obstacles the Israeli government is creating are the biggest obstacles yet on the path to peace."

Most of the 250,000 Palestinians in Jerusalem carry Israeli-issued IDs that grant residency, rather than Israeli citizenship. Most Palestinians in Jerusalem rejected Israel's citizenship offer after the 1967 war, fearing it would be tantamount to giving up Palestinian claims to the city. The Palestinians want to set up a future capital in east Jerusalem — where sensitive Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites are located.

If Israel goes ahead with the expulsions, it will likely trigger a new crisis over Jerusalem and hinder U.S. efforts to get Israelis and Palestinians back to peace negotiations. A U.S. envoy has been shuttling between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders in indirect peace talks, but Abbas says he won't resume direct negotiations unless Israel commits to a full settlement freeze.

Abbas has asked the international community to help prevent the deportations, an aide said.

Hamas is Abbas' bitter political rival, having wrested control of the Gaza Strip from him in a violent 2007 takeover. But Palestinians fear the expulsions could make other Arab residents of Jerusalem more vulnerable to being forced out. Abbas governs in the neighboring West Bank.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said concerns of widespread politically motivated expulsions were unfounded.

"These people are against the very idea of negotiations. They reject negotiating with Israel in any way. They promote violence so they cannot later complain about a court ruling," he said. "The only precedent here is a very clear warning to Hamas and all those who promote terror that adhering to violence will (have a) backlash."

Three of the Hamas politicians targeted were elected to the Palestinian parliament in 2006 elections in which the Islamists defeated Abbas' Fatah movement. The fourth is a former minister in the short-lived Hamas-Fatah unity government.

Shortly after the election, the four were among dozens of Hamas politicians arrested by Israel and were informed that their Jerusalem IDs were being revoked. They have been released in recent weeks and informed that they had to leave Jerusalem.

Hamas is shunned by Israel and the West as a terror organization. The founding charter of Hamas, an offshoot of the pan-Arab Muslim Brotherhood, calls for Israel's destruction. In recent years, Hamas has carried out scores of attacks against Israelis, including bus bombings in Jerusalem.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017