Israel Defense Ministry announced a new soon-to-be-law restriction for the West Bank visitors this Saturday, probing their most personal relationships with any Palestinian.
In a surprising move and amid a range of new restrictive immigration rules, the Israeli Defense Ministry ordered foreigners who wish to travel to the West Bank that they must tell if they love a Palestinian in the occupied area. The new discriminatory rule that was announced this Saturday obliges the West Bank visitors to inform the ministry if they are in such a relationship.
According to the new rule that is expected to become law this Monday, if any foreigner marries a Palestinian, immigration restrictions will apply, meaning that the couple will need to leave the West Bank after 27 months and cannot return for at least 6 months.
The new rule also specifies that foreigners have only 30 days to inform the Israeli authorities of their starting a relationship with a Palestinian ID holder.
The document says it sets out to “define the levels of authority and the manner of processing for applications from foreigners who wish to enter the Judea and Samaria area”.
The new rules were published in a 97-page document released by COGAT; the Israeli defense ministry body responsible for civil affairs in the Palestinian territories. The rule is titled Procedure for entry and residence of foreigners in the Judea and Samaria area. It is in fact the biblical name Israel historically uses for the West Bank. It was first published in February, but its introduction has been delayed up until this Saturday.
Not surprisingly but fully discriminatory, the new rules do not apply to those visiting Israel.
The new rules also put unprecedented limitations on students from Palestine, reducing the visas validity time for students and foreign lecturers to 150 and 100 days respectively, while there are no such limits on Israeli academics at all.
But that’s not the end of the story because visa extensions also are about to face new restrictions, with people being prevented from working or volunteering in the West Bank for significant periods of time. This latest case of restriction is expected to affect business travelers and aid organizations to a great degree.
Critics Rebuke Israel’s new discriminatory law
The discriminatory law was immediately condemned by Palestinians and Israeli NGOs, accusing Israel of “taking restrictions to a new level”.
Jessica Montell, executive director of the Israeli non-governmental organization HaMoked, said in this regard that “this is about demographic engineering of Palestinian society and isolating Palestinian society from the outside world,” adding also that the Israeli authorities “make it much more difficult for people to come and work in Palestinian institutions, volunteer, invest, teach and study.”
Campaign group Right to Enter also issued a statement and said that the relationship limits imposed by Israel will increase “discriminatory, cruel and arbitrary practices by Israeli authorities” that would cause “immense humanitarian difficulties for foreign spouses,” and that it “would lead to families being forcibly separated in the West Bank.”
Way outside the Israeli-Palestinian borders, the European Commission also criticized the move and specifically expressed grave concerns about the restrictions on foreign students and academics at Palestinian universities; “With Israel itself benefitting greatly from Erasmus+, the Commission considers that it should facilitate and not hinder access of students to Palestinian universities,” European Commissioner Mariya Gabriel said this Saturday.
Closing eyes and ears to the condemnations, Israeli authorities defended the harsher restrictions, allegedly claiming that on such moves are necessary for enhancing Israel’s security; “The passing of the law will lead to an important result for the security of the state and its fortification as a Jewish state,” said Israeli interior minister Ayelet Shaked on Saturday.