New Regulations Limit Palestinian Expat Entry to West Bank
Visitors arrive on the Jordanian side of the Allenby Bridge crossing between the West Bank and Jordan for Palestinians and foreign tourists,on July 19, 2022. (Khalil Mazraawi/AFP via Getty Images)

New Regulations Limit Palestinian Expat Entry to West Bank

Family and business life in the West Bank will be affected by new rules, as dual-passport Palestinians and foreign spouses will be required to request an entry permit 45 days in advance

New Israeli regulations that change the eligibility of foreign passport holders to enter Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank will go into effect next month.

The Unit for Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) has been editing the previous regulations since February. According to the new rules, which begin on October 20, any foreign national intending to visit areas A and B of the West Bank will need to fill out a form 45 days ahead of the visit, declaring the purpose of the visit. There will be several groups of people eligible for visit permits, including first-degree family members of Palestinian residents, Palestinian children, businesspeople, and journalists. The regulations specify that foreigners who are citizens of countries signed to a visa waiver agreement with Israel will still be able to fill out the permit request on arrival.

Entering Israel through Ben-Gurion Airport to visit the Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank will require confirmation from COGAT.

The new regulations also change the eligibility of foreign national spouses to visit the West Bank, requiring them to enter via the Allenby Bridge and committing them to receive a permit 45 days in advance of the visit. Permits will be good for three months and can be extended once by another three months with COGAT approval. The widely reported requirement that foreigners must issue a relationship status statement does not appear on the final version of the regulations published on Sunday, after a backlash from rights groups and foreign governments.

Permit requests will be available starting in mid-October, and the new regulations will be in place for a pilot program lasting two years, to examine the reaction to the plan by the Palestinian population.

Having to obtain a confirmation a month ahead will make it impossible for many foreign partners we have to be part of the business. The immediate effect is that we will have a harder time developing our business. It won’t shut us down, but it will stop us from expanding.

Enforcing the regulations, however, might be practically impossible. For example, since there are very few checkpoints at the entrances to the West Bank territories of the Palestinian Authority, anyone entering Israel through Ben-Gurion Airport will be able to travel to the West Bank.

Palestinian residents complain that new regulations will isolate them even further, and make it harder to maintain any partnership – personal or professional – with foreign nationals.

“My company has a lot of foreign partners: engineers, technical support, and investors. Many of them won’t be able to visit spontaneously. Business life doesn’t work in spans of weeks or months – we work in hours,” said Bassim Khoury, CEO of Pharmacare, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the West Bank.

Khoury told The Media Line why the new regulations challenge him as a businessman: “Having to obtain a confirmation a month ahead will make it impossible for many foreign partners we have to be part of the business. The immediate effect is that we will have a harder time developing our business. It won’t shut us down, but it will stop us from expanding.”

But it’s not just the financial aspect that bothers Khoury, who appealed to Israel’s Supreme Court in his fight against the new regulations.

“It’s a quiet step toward annexation, without naming it,” he said. “These regulations take us back to the time before the Oslo agreements, as they defy any guarantees of self-governing. Interior decisions, like who enters the West Bank, who studies in universities, and who gets to work, should be in Palestinian hands. That’s why I appealed to the Supreme Court. it’s a breach of the Oslo agreements,” explained Khoury, who is a former PA minister of national economy.

A source in COGAT claims that the new regulations were coordinated with the Palestinian Authority and, in fact, give the PA more control over who enters the West Bank. The source also said that the new regulations will not have a quota on the number of lecturers and students that come in. Current regulations state: “The authorized COGAT official is empowered to set a quota for the entry of students. The quota may be divided into categories according to existing degrees (a category for bachelor’s degrees, one for master’s degrees, one for doctoral and post-doctoral degrees) and it may be limited to certain disciplines.” The quota is 100 lecturers in necessary fields, and 150 students a year.

The legal legitimacy of the decision has been questioned by Israeli human rights organizations.

“Israel is eligible to decide who enters it, but the West Bank is not a part of Israel. It’s a policy of belligerent occupation,” Jessica Montell, executive director of Hamoked – Center For The Defense Of The Individual, told the Media Line. “The two things that COGAT is committed to base on when implementing its policy are improving the situation of the residents and security. How does limiting the number of foreign students in universities do any of these?”

Israel is eligible to decide who enters it, but the West Bank is not a part of Israel. It’s a policy of belligerent occupation.

Hamoked took part in launching a petition against the new regulations, involving local Palestinians and Palestinian groups advocating for freedom of movement. The petition delayed the start date of the new rules, which initially had been supposed to go into effect in February.

“Even if you make it harder for expats to enter, why make it tougher for spouses?” Montell said. “The only thing I can think of is to make it harder for Palestinian families in the West Bank, as part of a demographic struggle, and isolating civil society,” she added when asked her opinion about what is behind the new regulations.

“I invested a lot in the peace process and the aspirations for peace. We thought Israel is genuinely interested in reaching the two-state solution,” said Khoury, who was involved in the Madrid peace conference as the PA trade and industry advisor. “I think a lot of Palestinians live in La-La-land, assuming Israel is interested in Palestinian independence. This step proves otherwise.”

Give the Gift of Truth This Jewish New Year

The Media Line has been leading for more than twenty years in pioneering the American independent news agency in the Middle East, arguably the first in the region. We have always stayed true to our mission: to provide you with contextual sourced and trustworthy news. In an age of fake news masquerading as journalism, The Media Line plays a crucial role in providing fact-based news that deserves your support.

We're proud of the dozens of young students we've trained in our Press and Policy Student Program who will form the vanguard of the next generation of journalists to the benefit of countless millions of news readers.

Non-profit news needs public support. please help us with your generous contributions.
Donate
The Media Line
We thank our loyal readers and wish you all the happiest of holidays.

Invest in the
Trusted Mideast
News source.
We are on the
front lines.

Personalize Your News
Upgrade your experience by choosing the categories that matter most to you.
Click on the icon to add the category to your Personalize news
Browse Categories and Topics
Wake up to the Trusted Mideast News source Mideast Daily News Email
By subscribing, you agree to The Media Line terms of use and privacy policy.
Wake up to the Trusted Mideast News source Mideast Daily News Email
By subscribing, you agree to The Media Line terms of use and privacy policy.