Israel requires foreigners to report a romantic relationship with a Palestinian

Israel requires foreigners to report a romantic relationship with a Palestinian
Israel requires foreigners to report a romantic relationship with a Palestinian

Foreigners must contact Israel’s Ministry of Defense within 30 days of starting a relationship with a Palestinian citizen, according to the new regulations, presented in a comprehensive document. If she and the Palestinian decide to marry, the couple will have to move out of the country within 27 months at the latest, for at least six months.

The new restrictions do not only affect romantic partners, but also 150 foreign students and hundreds of lecturers at Palestinian universities. Relationships at Israeli universities are not subject to such regulations.

Entrepreneurs and humanitarian organizations will also be affected. The new rules limit the duration of visas and make it more difficult to extend them, which in many cases prevents people from working or volunteering in the West Bank for more than a few months.

“This is about demographic engineering and the isolation of Palestinian society from the outside world,” Jessica Montell, executive director of the Israeli NGO HaMoked, which petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court against the order, told the BBC. “They make it difficult for people to come and work in Palestinian institutions, to volunteer and study,” she added.

Israeli consent

Israel captured the West Bank in the Middle East War in 1967. COGAT (Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories), a unit of the Israeli Ministry of Defense, is responsible for the administration of the occupied territories.

COGAT’s new 97-page order is titled Procedure for the Entry and Residence of Foreigners in Judea and Samaria, which is the biblical designation for the area known today as the West Bank. The document, which was first published in February, aims to “define the levels of authority and how to process the applications of foreigners who want to enter the Judea and Samaria region.”

The document also cites interim peace agreements concluded in the 1990s, which required Israeli consent to grant residency or visitation to the spouses and children of Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza. Israeli authorities say the restrictions on travel to the territory are necessary for security reasons. The BBC contacted COGAT for a response but received no response.

The new rules do not apply to those visiting Israel, Jewish settlements or parts of the West Bank under Palestinian control. In such cases, entry is regulated by Israeli immigration authorities.

The Palestinian group Right to Enter complains about the “discriminatory, cruel and arbitrary practices of the Israeli authorities” which it says are causing humanitarian hardship to foreign spouses, leading to their forcible separation from their families in the West Bank. According to the group, the new regulation will worsen many existing restrictions and force many families to move out and stay abroad.

Restrictions on study and business

The European Commission also expressed concern about the new rules. She is particularly concerned about restrictions related to the situation of foreign students and academics at Palestinian universities. As part of the Erasmus+ program, 366 European university students and employees went to the West Bank in 2020. At the same time, there were 1,671 Europeans in Israeli institutions.

“Given that Israel itself benefits greatly from Erasmus+, the Commission believes that it should facilitate and not restrict student access to Palestinian universities,” said European Commissioner Marija Gabriel.

In addition to relationships or studies, the restriction also applies to entrepreneurs. Bassim Khoury, CEO of a Palestinian pharmaceutical firm in the West Bank, says the new regulation will limit the ability to source employees, investors or suppliers and quality control experts from abroad.

The Israeli authorities will allow foreigners to enter the West Bank only through border crossings with Jordan, and they will only be able to use Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport in exceptional cases.

One of the main investors in Khoury’s company is from Jordan. Although this country maintains diplomatic relations with Israel, its citizens can enter the West Bank only in exceptional cases, and for a limited time.

The change in regulations will also affect international cooperation. Dr. Benjamin Thomson is the head of the Canadian charity Keys to Health, which sends medical professors from North America and the United Kingdom to train Palestinian doctors.

“Anyone involved in work in the occupied territories of Palestine is already familiar with the many administrative complications involved in obtaining permits. These new regulations will significantly increase delays, increase costs and reduce the predictability of travel to and from the West Bank,” Thomson told the BBC.

“This predictability is necessary to be able to do charity work in the West Bank while continuing to do paid work outside of it,” he added.

The High Court rejected the new regulation in July, saying it was premature legislation. This suggests that Cogat should have revised the regulation to reach the final decision. However, no changes to the document have been published.

The article is in Czech

Tags: Israel requires foreigners report romantic relationship Palestinian

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