Arab residents of the eastern half of Jerusalem insist they are "Palestinians," but they are coming in increasingly greater numbers to apply for Israeli citizenship over fears that an upcoming US-hosted peace summit could leave them living under Palestinian Authority sovereignty.
Of the 250,000 Arabs that live on the eastern side of Jerusalem only about 12,000 have sought Israeli citizenship since the city was reunited under Israeli rule in 1967. For a "Palestinian" to voluntarily become an Israeli is tantamount to treason within that community. But Interior Ministry officials told Ynet that many are now bucking that trend, with at least 3,000 applying for Israeli citizenship over the past four months alone.
The trigger for this reversal has been talk that Israel is prepared to surrender the Arab-dominated neighborhoods of Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority within the framework of a final status peace agreement that the Bush Administration hopes to oversee in Annapolis, Maryland later this month.
Arabs living in eastern Jerusalem told Ynet that, all nationalism aside, they are fully aware that their futures are far brighter under Israeli rule. That revelation struck a blow not only to the viability of a sovereign Palestinian Arab state, but also to the regular complaints of Israeli Arab lawmakers that their community suffers discrimination and second-class treatment as citizens of the Jewish state.