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More East Jerusalem Palestinians Seeking Israeli Citizenship


Most Palestinians living in East Jerusalem want the area to become the capital of a future Palestinian state. So, for many years, Palestinians there have rejected the idea of becoming Israeli citizens. But, that situation is changing.

Today, more and more Palestinians are seeking Israeli citizenship. Many say they do it because they feel they must.

The Reuter news service spoke with one Palestinian teacher who asked not to be identified. She said, "I have a bad feeling because I would like to have the passport of my country as a Jerusalemite, as a Palestinian. So I should have a Palestinian passport. But unfortunately, I cannot get one. Instead, I got something that will only connect me more to Jerusalem."

Some Palestinians say that full citizenship will help them get better jobs and other benefits. Others disagree, like Ghassan Nofal, of East Jerusalem. He said, "For someone who has children…a house, a business and all these things, the citizenship could never help. If they give us a passport and take away our IDs, it is the same for me."

It is not all about benefits. The homes of some Palestinians have been separated from the rest of Jerusalem for the past 10 years. Israel built a wall around them after a number of suicide bombings. Those Palestinians fear they may lose Jerusalem residency as a result.

Israel’s Interior Ministry keeps records of Palestinian passport applications. Reuters says there were 434 passport requests for the year 2012-2013. Israeli officials approved 189 of them. The news agency said most of the rest are still being processed.

Amnon Ramon is a researcher at the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies.

He said, "We are indeed witnessing an increase in the number of East Jerusalemites who have permanent residency status in the state of Israel who are seeking Israeli citizenship. The question of how big this increase is - is debatable."

Palestinian officials pushing for a state that would include East Jerusalem are concerned.

Khalil Tafakji is a former member of the Palestinian negotiating team. He said, "There is a big risk that if the situation continues, what will the Palestinians negotiate about? They want to negotiate about land - they already lost the land. They want to negotiate for the population and the population is being lost."

The demographic effect could be even wider, they argue, in considering the future children of Palestinians who become Israeli. Those boys and girls will be born Israeli citizens. Officials in Jerusalem deny that the demographics will affect Israel's negotiations with Palestinians.

I’m Jim Tedder.

VOA’s Zlatica Hoke reported on this story from Washington. Caty Weaver adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

benefit – n. a good or helpful result or effect

application n. a formal and usually written request for something (such as a job, admission to a school, a loan, etc.)

residency n. legal permission to live in a place

statusn. the official position of a person or thing according to the law

demographic adj. of or relating to the study of changes that occur in large groups of people over a period of time : of or relating to demography

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