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Controversial entry procedures for foreigners to West Bank delayed until October

Jerusalem24 – Highly controversial procedures for the entry of foreigners into the West Bank that were due to come into effect today were amended late last night and their implementation delayed until 20 October.

COGAT, the Israeli authority that deals with matters of civil administration in the occupied West Bank, published late last night an amended version of its new procedures for foreign passport-holders wishing to enter, work, volunteer, or reside in the West Bank.

Highly controversial

Palestinian legal experts, academics and digital rights groups have expressed outrage over the policy which they say further complicates the rules of movement and adds restrictions to an already convoluted system.

US President Biden’s administration also complained about the decision to the Israeli government earlier this year.

The 97-page document, called “Procedure for Entry and Residence for Foreigners in Judea and Samaria Area (PDF),” is meant to replace the current four-page document. Judea and Samaria is the Israeli term for the occupied West Bank.

The policy essentially formalizes already restrictive “unwritten rules” – which legal experts say is an attempt to restrict and track the travel of foreign nationals to the occupied Palestinian territories, control Palestinian population growth, as well as keep data on the land claims of Palestinians holding foreign nationalities.

The new rules, initially set to come into effect on 22 May and postponed to 5 September due to a High Court challenge by Israeli NGO HaMoked, were quietly published in February this year, receiving little public attention at the time.

“Still problematic”

Commenting on the release of the updated procedures, HaMoked wrote on Twitter that “some of the most outrageous elements” have been removed, “but the basic problem remains.”

The original procedures had said that foreign spouses of Palestinians would be required to leave the West Bank for a full six months every three to six months of their residency. The requirement to remain outside the West Bank for six continuous months has been removed in the amended procedures.

A controversial paragraph – which made headlines around the world as the new rules were set to come into effect – requesting that Israeli authorities be informed of romantic relationships between a foreigner and a Palestinian within 30 days of that relationship’s start has been removed.

Quotas capping at 100 the number of foreign lecturers allowed in the West Bank and 150 the number of foreign students are also excluded from the updated version.

The application form that foreign passport-holders must fill prior to entering the West Bank has also been amended. Foreigners are no longer required to state, for example, whether they stand to inherit any property in the West Bank.

However, according to HaMoked, the procedure still “violates Israel’s international legal obligations and HaMoked will continue its legal challenge of it.”

“Israel will prevent thousands of families from living together for blatantly political reasons; The Israeli military takes the prerogative of micromanaging Palestinian society – including interfering with academic freedom of Palestinian universities.”

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