Hamas "MP" Ahmed Atoun
Hamas "MP" Ahmed Atoun Issam Rimawi/Flash 90

Yet another legal hurdle was placed in front of campaigners pushing to expel four senior Hamas leaders from Jerusalem Tuesday, after the High Court postponed a hearing on the issue that was set for today.

No alternative date has yet been offered by the court, which means that the four - Khaled Abu Arafa, Muhammad Abu Tir, Mohammed Totah and Ahmed Atoun - will remain in Jerusalem for now.

The case surrounds a decision by the interior minister in June 2006 to revoke their residency permits, after the four accepted positions in Hamas's newly-formed "parliament" in Gaza. Then-Interior Minister Roni Bar-On gave them the opportunity to renounce their positions, but when they refused to do so he revoked their permits, arguing the men could not remain residents of Israel while serving as key members of a group committed to the destruction of the country and genocide of its people. All subsequent interior ministers have maintained that position.

The move was meant to pave the way for the Hamas officials to be expelled from the capital, as well as to have the men stripped of their Israeli ID cards and their benefits, including social security, national health insurance and freedom of movement throughout the country. But the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) launched an appeal against their expulsion, which has dragged on for more than eight years, and has been fought by both the government and, more recently, the Shurat Hadin legal rights group.

Shurat Hadin director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner told Arutz Sheva that the sudden court decision to postpone the hearing was likely motivated by political considerations, with the dissolution of the government and announcement of elections early next year.

"I think they just thought it was too political to deal with right now," she said.

However, she added, the High Court has actually been stalling since day one, accusing it of seeking to avoid a decision at all costs.

"The court is doing everything it can not to revoke their residency... not to make any decision that will set a precedent to revoking the residency" of terrorists based in the Israeli capital.

That, despite the fact that the terrorists "have had countless opportunities to appeal to the interior minister and renounce their membership in the Hamas parliament - but they refused!"

'Let them go to Hamas-land!'

Indeed, the ruling could set an important precedent for how the State handles future attacks, amid waves of terrorism rocking Jerusalem and Israel at large, and after current Interior Minister Gilad Erdan revoked the permanent residency of at least one terrorist last month. In November, Erdan revoked the ID card and negated the rights of Mahmoud Nadi, the driver for the suicide bomber responsible for the bombing at the Dolphinarium Disco in Tel Aviv in June 2001. That attack murdered 21 people and wounded over 100 others.

But that case was more clear-cut and difficult to appeal, Darshan-Leitner explained, since Nadi was directly involved in the murder of Israeli citizens, whereas the four Hamas officials in question are only "political" leaders whose role in terrorism is more indirect - though still a clear danger to national security, she argued.

The legal campaigner rejected the petition by ACRI - a major grantee of the radical-left New Israel Fund - which argued that the four could not be expelled since they did not have any other citizenship or residency elsewhere.

"There are a lot of answers to this question," she counters."First and foremost, let them go to Gaza."

"Gaza is Hamas-land, and they belong to Hamas - they are ministers and members of the Hamas parliament - that's why their residency was revoked in the first place!"

Most Palestinians living in Gaza also do not have any official citizenship or residency permits, she noted.

"They can even go to the Palestinian Authority areas in Judea and Samaria," she continued.

"Nobody will stop them from living there and the truth is that according to their own stated loyalty they belong there... in Hamas-land or the PA, more than they belong in Israel."