J Street came under great pressure inside the Jewish community to have Israeli officials at its conference 2 months back. Otherwise, well– it wouldn’t be a member in good standing of Jewish leadership. Still, Israeli ambassador Michael Oren refused to go to the conference, as part of the Jewish center-right’s campaign to delegitimize J Street. Tzipi Livni also did not attend the conference, but a couple of senior members of her party, Kadima, did attend. One was Member of the Knesset Meir Sheetrit.
Sheetrit is in the news today. Haaretz reports that the Israeli government stripped thousands of Palestinians of residency in 2008. As former interior minister, Sheetrit played a prominent role in this effort. Emphasis ours:
Last year set an all-time record for the number of Arab residents of East Jerusalem who were stripped of residency rights by the Interior Ministry. Altogether, the ministry revoked the residency of 4,577 East Jerusalemites in 2008 – 21 times the average of the previous 40 years…
According to the ministry, last year’s sharp increase stemmed from its decision to investigate the legal status of thousands of East Jerusalem residents in March and April, 2008. The probe was the brainchild of former interior minister Meir Sheetrit (Kadima)..
Officials at Hamoked, which obtained the ministry data via the Freedom of Information Act, said they were concerned that some of those who lost their residency rights may not even know it.
"The phenomenon of revoking people’s residency has reached frightening dimensions," said Dalia Kerstein, Hamoked’s executive director. "The Interior Ministry operation in 2008 is just part of a general policy whose goal is to restrict the size of the Palestinian population and maintain a Jewish majority in Jerusalem. The Palestinians are natives of this city, not Johnny-come-latelys."
Sheetrit, however, insisted that the operation was necessary. "What we discovered is just the tip of the iceberg," he said. "The State of Israel pays billions of shekels a year in stipends to people who don’t even live here. We sent notices to every one of them about the intention to revoke their residency; we gave them time to appeal. Those who appealed weren’t touched."
The ministry data shows that 89 Palestinians got their residency back after appealing.
Here is another gem from Sheetrit:
We must take a neighborhood in Gaza and wipe it off the map”Cabinet Minister Meir Sheetrit, AP, 10th Feb 2008
As an aside, at J Street Sheetrit was also very concerned about the Haredi Orthodox not working in Israel, and the separate education system for the religious. As for the Palestinians, there was the attitude: we offered them everything and they still wouldn’t sign.