In 1967, on the wake of Israel’s occupation of Gaza and the West Bank -including East Jerusalem-, Israel annexed East Jerusalem, applying its rule and law over the land. Nevertheless, it did not grant the inhabitants of East Jerusalem a status of citizenship but rather permanent residency – through a census, which was done from house to house registering people who were physically in the house at that certain time and granting them a permanent residency status rather than citizenship.
As a result many people who were at the time East Jerusalem residents, in the sense that they were born in Jerusalem, lived in it and had their family history and life conducted in it were not registered as residents, be it for them being away at work, caught out of the city at the time, fled the horrors of war, and then came back later on after the census. All those people lost their rights and their ties with their families and are considered to be absentees.
The status of citizenship grants social, political and legal rights including the right to nominate oneself to become a parliament member at the Knesset and to vote in the general elections as well as the right to receive social benefits including health insurance. Israeli citizens can live anywhere in the world without losing their right to return to Israel any time they choose to, and do not lose their citizenship upon living in another country of course.
Permanent residents, on the other hand, do not have the right to nominate themselves to the Knesset or to vote in the general elections. Further their status does not grant them automatically the right to social benefits including health insurance. Moreover, they have to continuously prove that they are actually residing in Jerusalem, or within the boundaries of Israel before receiving any of the benefits given by the National Insurance Institute (e.g. health insurance, pensions, unemployment benefits,…), or receiving the service they need from the Ministry of the Interior (e.g. ID-cards, travel documents, child registration).
At every major junction in their live, such as registering their marriage, their children, death of a spouse and more, permanent residents have to prove that their place of residency for at least two years has been in Jerusalem. To do so they must provide bills, including the electricity, water, telephone and Municipal Tax (Arnona) , lease agreements, birth documents to show that the children were born in Jerusalem, and school certificates to show that the children attend school in Jerusalem, among others.
The residency laws that apply to Palestinians in East Jerusalem
Contrary to the Law of Return which applies to Jews only and their descendants, and which grants them the right to immigrate to Israel and become its citizens immediately upon arrival, the Law of Entry into Israel of the year 1952 and its regulations of the year 1974, applies to all the rest, i.e. non Jews, including the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem in their capacity as permanent residents of Israel.
According to this law and its regulations the Minister of Interior has the authority to cancel residencies as per section 11(a) of the entry into Israel regulations which specifies that residencies can be cancelled upon:
i. Leaving the country for seven years or more, or
ii. Upon getting permanent residency abroad, or
iii. Upon becoming the citizen of a foreign country through naturalization.
There are two other important issues that tie in with the residency problem and they are the Family Unification and Child Registration.