Foreign West Bank visitors should tell Israel if they’re in love with Palestinians

Foreign West Bank visitors should tell Israel if they're in love with Palestinians
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The new Israeli rules, which will come into effect next week, require foreigners entering the West Bank to declare whether they have “formed a couple” with a Palestinian and are in a relationship with them, along with other new restrictions that will make future visits difficult for foreign nationals. .

The rules, which do not apply to visitors to Israeli settlements in the West Bank, will take effect Monday after being delayed twice due to legal difficulties.

this new rule book It was prepared by COGAT, the organization of the Ministry of Defense responsible for Palestinian civil affairs. Under the regulation, first published in February, a foreigner who is married to, plans to marry, or has an affair with a Palestinian must notify COGAT.

Additionally, if the relationship begins after a foreigner has arrived in the West Bank, they must notify the Israeli authorities within 30 days of their engagement, wedding or cohabitation – “whichever comes first”.

“A foreigner who is married to or forms a couple with someone residing in the Region has to make arrangements… before coming to the Region. If the relationship starts after the foreigner’s arrival in the Region, the authorized COGAT official must be informed in writing within 30 days from the start of the relationship. At the same time, An application must be made to the Palestinian Authority for the status to be formalized.”

Example: A Palestinian man sells roses on Valentine’s Day in Ramallah, West Bank, February 14, 2010. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

If their relationship status is not formalized within 90 days, their Israeli permit will expire and the foreigner will have to leave the country immediately according to the rules.

Regardless of formalizing their status, Israeli leave can only be extended for up to 27 months. After that, the foreigner would have to leave the country for a six-month cool-down period.

The rules also state that foreign passport holders planning to visit the West Bank (excluding settlements), including Palestinians residing abroad, can no longer obtain a visa upon arrival at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, and instead obtain a visa. They must apply at least 45 days in advance.

The measures will also impose significant restrictions on foreigners’ ability to study, volunteer or work in the West Bank, dealing, among others, a major blow to student exchange programs run by the European Union.

Passengers sit in a waiting room on the Jordanian side of the Allenby Bridge, which runs between the West Bank and Jordan on July 19, 2022. (Khalil Mazraawi/AFP)

Israeli human rights group HaMoked, which led the Supreme Court to challenge the measures, said the new rules would deprive “thousands of Palestinian families of the right to live uninterruptedly together and live a normal family life”.

HaMoked’s director, Jessica Montell, said in a statement that international humanitarian law gives Israel the right to act “for the welfare of the local people” and its security as an “occupying power” in the West Bank. But he said the new regulations “have nothing to do with either” and that Israel’s aim is to “restrict the growth of the Palestinian population through family reunification”.

Passengers arrive on the Jordan side of the Allenby Bridge crossing between the West Bank and Jordan on July 19, 2022. (Khalil Mazraawi/AFP)

Asked by AFP, COGAT said it was a “two-year pilot” aimed at making the entry process of the new regulations “more efficient and more suited to the dynamic conditions of the time.”

In the West Bank city of Ramallah, Palestinian lawyer Rasem Kamal said it was flooded with clients from the diaspora seeking a power of attorney amid deep uncertainty over regulating their business.

“Many people are in a rush to come to the West Bank to finish their work here or give a mandate because they understand… there may be restrictions on their ability to visit,” he said.

Canadian doctor Benjamin Thomson, one of the 19 plaintiffs involved in the legal battle, said that Israel’s move would disrupt the work of health workers.

“These brutal measures will seriously affect their work and disrupt the lives of the Palestinian people,” said Thomson, director of the Keys to Health project, which aims to rebuild healthcare in the Palestinian territories.

“This is micromanagement with the aim of damaging the Palestinian social fabric,” said Sam Bahour, a Palestinian-American businessman who moved to the West Bank from Ohio in 1995.

File: Students seen at the University of Bethlehem campus in Bethlehem, West Bank. May 19, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The new rules will also set quotas for academic exchange programs and will only allow 150 foreign professors and 100 students to attend Palestinian universities each year.

The proposed quotas received a strong reaction from the European Union, whose Erasmus+ exchange program will be particularly affected.

366 European students and professors attended courses in the West Bank in 2020; this is significantly more than the total quota for the next two years.

“While Israel benefits greatly from Erasmus+, [European] “The Commission considers it necessary to facilitate and not hinder students’ access to Palestinian universities,” he said.

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