New Israeli rules, which will take effect next week, require foreigners entering the West Bank to declare whether they are “partnered” to a Palestinian and have a relationship with them. .
The rules, which exclude visitors to Israeli settlements in the West Bank, will take effect on Monday after being delayed twice by legal challenges.
The the new rulebook Developed by COGAT, the Ministry of Defense body responsible for Palestinian civil affairs. Under the rules, first published in February, a foreigner who is married to, plans to marry or is in a relationship with a Palestinian must notify COGAT.
In addition, if the relationship begins after the foreigner arrives in the West Bank, they must notify the Israeli authorities within 30 days of the engagement, wedding or cohabitation — “whichever comes first.”
“A foreigner who is married to a resident of the region or who forms a couple with a person must take measures before coming to the region. If the relationship begins after the alien arrives in the territory, then the authorized COGAT official must be notified in writing within 30 days of the beginning of the relationship. At the same time, an application must be submitted to the Palestinian Authority to formalize the status,” the regulations state.
If their relationship status is not formalized within 90 days, then their Israeli permit will expire and they will be forced to leave the country immediately according to foreigner regulations.
Regardless of the formalization of their status, the Israeli permit can only be extended for up to 27 months. After that, the foreigner will have to leave the country for a six-month cooling-off period.
The rules also state that foreign passport holders planning to visit the West Bank, including Palestinians living abroad (except in settlements), will not be able to obtain a visa on arrival at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv. they will have to apply to them at least 45 days in advance.
The measures would also severely restrict the ability of foreigners to study, volunteer or work in the West Bank, and would severely affect student exchange programs run by the European Union, among others.
The new rules will deprive “thousands of Palestinian families of their right to live together and have a normal family life,” said HaMoked, the rights group leading Israel’s Supreme Court appeal against the measures.
HaMoked director Jessica Montell said in a statement that international humanitarian law gives Israel the right to act as an “occupying force” in the West Bank for its own security and “for the well-being of the local population.” But he said the new rules had “nothing to do with either” and that Israel’s aim was to “limit Palestinian population growth through family reunification”.
Asked by AFP, COGAT said the new rules are a “two-year pilot” aimed at making the entry process “more efficient and more responsive to the dynamic conditions of the times”.
Rasem Kamal, a Palestinian lawyer in the West Bank city of Ramallah, said he was inundated with clients from the diaspora seeking to register a power of attorney amid deep uncertainty about how their cases would be regulated.
“A lot of people are rushing to come to the West Coast and get their jobs done or put in power of attorney here because they understand … there may be restrictions on their ability to visit,” he said.
Canadian doctor Benjamin Thomson, one of 19 plaintiffs in the legal challenge, said Israel’s move would disrupt the work of health workers.
“These draconian measures will seriously affect their work and harm the lives of the Palestinian people,” said Thomson, director of the Keys to Health project, which focuses on rebuilding health care 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.
The new rules will also set quotas for academic exchange programs and allow only 150 foreign professors and 100 students to study at Palestinian universities each year.
The proposed quotas have drawn sharp criticism from the European Union, which would be particularly affected by the Erasmus+ exchange program.
In 2020, 366 European students and teachers attended courses in the West Bank, far exceeding the total quota for the next two years.
“Although Israel benefits a lot from the Erasmus+ program [European] The Commission believes that this should facilitate and not hinder students’ access to Palestinian universities,” Education Commissioner Maria Gabriel said in July.
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