Israel brings in strict rules, says visitors to West Bank must register romances


Israel has enforced strict rules for a two-year pilot period from Thursday to limit the ability of foreigners to enter and stay in the occupied West Bank despite international criticism of the regulation that includes compulsory declaration of romantic relationships.

A 90-page ordinance replacing the previous four-page document came into effect on Thursday. The rule is expected to stifle the Palestinian economy and academia and the work of aid agencies, and create complications for hundreds of thousands of Palestinian families with dual nationality, who are already grappling with the convoluted permit system in place, reported The Guardian.

Nearly all foreign nationals coming to volunteer, work or study in the West Bank will be granted only single-entry visas, with some being valid for only three months, and will have to leave between visas and wait – in some cases for more than a year – before reapplying for entry. 

In most cases, residency is limited to a 12- to 27-month period, making family life and long-term employment almost impossible.

As per the new rule, people born in Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Bahrain and South Sudan – even if they have citizenship of a second country – are now barred from the West Bank except under exceptional circumstances. It is pertinent to mention here that about 60% of the Jordanian population is of Palestinian origin.

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COGAT, the Israeli military civil body responsible for government policy in the occupied Palestinian territories, had first outlined the new rules in February. As reported earlier by WION, the text had to be revised several times after legal challenges from rights groups citing the formalisation of discriminatory practices and hence the implementation was delayed.

The proposal made headlines in July when international media picked up on a clause stating that foreigners must inform Israeli authorities within 30 days if they fall in love with a Palestinian.

Subsequently, the one-month period for declaring a romantic relationship and visa cooling-off period for newly married couples has been dropped from the final document, but Palestinians and human rights organisations say it still requires foreign nationals to declare love interests, and non-security-related information such as property or inheritance, at the discretion of Israeli officials.

COGAT did not respond to request for comment on whether the final text of the rules differed substantially from previous versions, reported Guardian.

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Quotas on the number of foreign lecturers and students have been scrapped, and allowances been made for long-term visas for doctors and teachers. The new procedures though still allow quotas on visa categories “in accordance with the interplay of relevant considerations, including the political/security situation”.

HaMoked, an Israeli non-profit focusing on Palestinian legal rights, had filed an injunction in June alleging discriminatory and restrictive criteria, but the petition was rejected on the grounds that it was premature.

“Those affected have to try and work within the new procedures and exhaust all the possible administrative options first. So when dual nationals or foreign volunteers or whoever begin getting denied entry to the West Bank, that’s when we can file a new petition on their behalf,” said HaMoked’s executive director Jessica Montell.

“Under international law, the Israeli military is only allowed to work for the interests of the occupied population, or its own security needs. These restrictions obviously advance neither,” she said.

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