Palestine: Israel to restrict entry of foreigners to West Bank as of October
By Abdel Raouf Arnaout and Awad Rajoub
JERUSALEM (AA): Israeli authorities plan a list of restrictions for foreigners seeking to visit the occupied West Bank, a move that invited outrage from Palestinians and Western nations.
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Israeli body responsible for Palestinian civil affairs, said the new rules will be effective as of October for a trial period of two years.
The rules were set to take effect in July, but were delayed by petitions to Israel’s Supreme Court.
The new guidelines make it imperative for foreigners and Palestinians to enter the occupied West Bank through Israeli checkpoints.
The rules also state that foreign passport holders — including Palestinians living abroad — who are planning to visit the West Bank (with the exception of Israeli settlements), will no longer be able to obtain visas on arrival at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, and instead will have to apply for them at least 45 days in advance.
The rules also necessitate the approval of the academic credentials of a university lecturer invited by a Palestinian institution, granting the Israeli authorities the right to screen potential students if there is “suspicion of misuse” of a visa.
Palestinian and Western criticism of the Israeli restrictions, however, have forced the Israeli authorities to introduce amendments to the guidelines.
Initially, COGAT required foreigners who form relationships with local Palestinians to register with Israeli authorities, but this demand was later dropped under criticism.
US Ambassador Tom Nides said he was “concerned” about the Israeli restrictions.
“I continue to have concerns with the published protocols, particularly COGAT’s role in determining whether individuals invited by Palestinian academic institutions are qualified to enter the West Bank, and the potential negative impact on family unity,” he said in a statement.
“It is important to ensure all of these regulations are developed in coordination with key stakeholders, including the Palestinian Authority. I fully expect the Government of Israel to make necessary adjustments during the pilot period to ensure transparency as well as the fair and equal treatment of all US citizens and other foreign nationals traveling to the West Bank.”
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh termed the Israeli rules as “racist” and called on the United States and Europe to pile pressure on Israel to abolish the restrictions.
For years, the Israeli authorities have imposed restrictions on the entry of foreigners into the occupied West Bank, but without announcing it officially.
Israel occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip during the 1967 Middle East war, territories Palestinians want for an independent state.
*Ikram Imane Kouachi contributed to this report
[Photo: Relatives mourn during the funeral ceremony of Mohammed Zekarine, who died when he was shot with live bullets during the Israeli Forces raid on Kubbatiye of Jenin, West Bank on September 05, 2022. Photographer: Issam Rimawi/AA]
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