JERUSALEM, Israel -- In an extremely rare move, Egypt has granted citizenship to tens of thousands of Palestinian Arabs, mostly from the Gaza Strip, since Islamist President Mohammed Morsi took office last June, The Jerusalem Post reported.
According to the report, the Morsi government ordered the Interior Ministry to grant citizenship to anyone born to an Egyptian mother.
About 50,000 have received citizenship so far, including senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar, with that number expected to double by 2013.
Jordan, on the other hand, has stripped thousands of Palestinians of their Jordanian citizenship in the past several years, according to Jerusalem Post Palestinian Affair's correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh. Close to half of Jordan's six million citizens are Palestinian Arabs.
Former Israeli Ambassador to Egypt Zvi Mazel told CBN News "legally speaking this is justice."
"We should not forget that the Gaza Strip was occupied by Egypt from '48 to '67. Many Egyptians lived there…and they married Palestinians. The children of Egyptian woman ipso facto are automatically Egyptian," he said. "From a legal perspective, it's a normal measure, justice probably."
But most of the Arab world, with the exception of Jordan, refused to grant citizenship to Palestinians who left Israel during the War of Independence. Rather they and their descendants have been isolated in refugee camps in the hope they would return one day to overwhelm the Jewish nation-state.
"Syria and other countries aimed to hold this issue open," Mazel continued, "but now, probably because of the change of regime, they have decided to grant them citizenship, probably signaling to the Palestinians in Gaza that they are going to work together."
From a political perspective, granting citizenship signals more cooperation between Hamas and Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, even leading to an open border, once they figure out how to deal with global jihadist groups that have "taken root in Gaza," he said.
"We'll see more support -- maybe even in weapons -- because Hamas needs new weapons all the time," Mazel said. "Hamas and the government in Egypt will come to an understanding."
How will that reality affect Israel?
"Gaza will remain a base of attack against Israel because Hamas is a terrorist organization. They have not let down their aim to destroy Israel," the former ambassador said. And Morsi will continue efforts to reconcile Hamas and Fatah, with Hamas taking precedence.
"There are many conflicts, problems and tensions between Fatah and Hamas. Hamas would like to rule the West Bank and oust Fatah, but I don't see success in the two factions trying to reconcile," Mazel concluded.