Travel restrictions

Israel delays West Bank travel restrictions in apparent gesture to Joe Biden | Israel

Israel has delayed implementing tough rules limiting the ability of foreigners to enter and stay in the occupied West Bank, in what is seen as a move towards Joe Biden ahead of the US president’s visit to the Middle East next month.

A statement from the High Court on Wednesday said the new rules would be put on hold until early September as no decision had yet been made on objections to the proposed policy.

An injunction alleging discriminatory and restrictive criteria was filed by HaMoked, an Israeli nonprofit focusing on Palestinian legal rights, last week. The rules were due to come into effect on July 5.

Palestinian academics, business leaders and rights groups expressed outrage at the policy when it was first introduced in February. Israeli media reported that the postponement followed talks between Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and US officials, who expressed strong opposition to the new proposals.

The 97-page order replacing the current four-page document is expected to stifle the Palestinian economy and academia, as well as create complications for hundreds of thousands of Palestinian families with dual citizenship who are already struggling to navigate a system of convoluted license.

Almost all foreigners would only be granted single-entry visas, some valid for only three months, and would be forced to leave between visas and in some cases wait more than a year before reapplying. hall. Residency is limited to a total of five years, making family life and long-term employment nearly impossible.

“It will cause major problems. Some of our board members come here frequently and they need to be able to see their investments. They destroy Palestinian businesses but also Oslo,” said Bassem Khouri, managing director of a pharmaceutical company in the West Bank, referring to the peace process agreements of the 1990s.

“Who can live and work here is supposed to be a Palestinian decision. This is designed to isolate us.

There are no provisions for some common visa categories, including teachers and journalists working for the Palestinian media, as well as culture and tourism, and family visits from siblings, grandparents or grandparents. -children.

Only 150 foreign students a year can enroll in Palestinian colleges and universities, studying pre-approved subjects, and there is a quota of 100 “distinguished” foreign lecturers, a designation that the Israeli authorities will make.

Palestinians with dual nationality will be required to give the names and identification numbers of family and friends they will visit before travelling, as well as declare whether they own or will inherit property in the West Bank.

The new procedures apply only to Palestinians, not to Israeli settler communities living across the Green Line in violation of international law.

Nationals of Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Bahrain and South Sudan, even if they have the citizenship of a second country, will not be allowed to travel to the West Bank, except in exceptional or humanitarian circumstances .

This last point is believed to have caused particular annoyance in Washington as it potentially discriminates against US citizens. Israel has been trying for years to negotiate a visa waiver program with the United States.

“It’s often the case with the occupation that mid-level employees come up with something that makes sense to them, even though there’s no justification for it, or clarity on who authorizes you to make those decisions on how Palestinians can live,” said Jessica Montell, executive director of HaMoked, who filed an injunction on behalf of 19 people.

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“Elements of this policy are clearly inconsistent with Israeli rights law or international law, and a slap in the face for Israel’s partners in the United States and Europe as well.

The document says the new entry rules “will define levels of authority and how to deal with foreigners who wish to enter the region of Judea and Samaria,” the Israeli government’s term for the West Bank. Israeli authorities say travel restrictions to and from the territory are necessary for security reasons.

Cogat, the Israeli military civilian body responsible for implementing government policy in the occupied Palestinian territories, did not respond to a request for comment.