It removed a question in an earlier iteration that required applicants to declare whether they held or expected to inherit land in the West Bank, which caused panic among many American Palestinians who saw it as a sign of a new era of land title regulations. Variety. It also added a clause allowing doctors and teachers to obtain long-term visas and foreign spouses to work or volunteer.
The rule will be implemented on October 20 and will continue a two-year pilot.
Tom Nides, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, said he, the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem and the U.S. Office of Palestinian Affairs have been “actively engaging with the Israeli government on these draft rules — and we will continue to do so” since February During the first 45 days of implementation and the two-year pilot period.”
He expressed “concern” about the Israeli military’s “role in determining the eligibility of individuals invited by Palestinian academic institutions to enter the West Bank, and the potential negative impact on family reunification.” He said he wanted Israel to “treat all U.S. citizens and other foreigners traveling to the West Bank as equals.”
“We are concerned about the overall sentiment on this matter,” a senior U.S. embassy official said on condition of anonymity discussing the sensitive topic. Since February, U.S. officials have expressed alarm at “the concept of restricting or cumbersome travel for U.S. citizens and all foreign nationals,” the official said.
The official added that during negotiations with their Israeli counterparts, U.S. officials made it clear that the agreements would affect Israel’s attempt to join the Department of Homeland Security’s visa-waiver program, under which citizens of member countries can enter the U.S. without a visa.
“For Israel to be visa-free, there needs to be reciprocal privileges for Americans to travel visa-free,” the U.S. embassy official said.
Since its initial release in February, the entry agreement has been subject to multiple legal interventions by human rights groups, which argue they formalize discriminatory practices against Palestinians under Israeli occupation.
Jessica Montell, head of the Israeli human rights group Hamoked, petitioned the country’s high court to stop the rules, saying that while some language had been “watered down,” it still granted the Israeli military jurisdiction for “illegal” interference rights to the public and private lives of Palestinians in the disputed territories.
The rules give the Israeli military agency COGAT, which handles Palestinian civilian affairs, the power to ban individuals from five countries with which Israel has diplomatic relations: Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Bahrain and South Sudan. They effectively state that dual nationals — for example, holders of Jordanian passports, where at least 60 percent of the population is Palestinian — are ineligible to enter the West Bank.
“This is blatant discrimination,” said Montell, whose group plans to petition to stop the rules from taking effect.
These restrictions do not apply to Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The territory’s two-tiered legal structure treats Jewish Israelis as citizens living under civilian rule, while Palestinians are seen as combatants under military rule, subject to night-time military raids, detention and bans from visiting their ancestral lands or entering certain roads.
“If I had just fallen in love with an Israeli Jew, none of this would have been a problem,” joked an American woman married to a Palestinian man who is the de facto leader of the tech industry in the Palestinian capital Ramallah. She spoke on condition of anonymity because of concerns about her visa status, which has been under threat since moving to the West Bank with her husband and children 12 years ago.
She said Israeli policies to restrict the movement of Palestinians, if not in law, had been in practice for years, effectively isolating Palestinian society from economists, academics, investors and civil society leaders, the experts said. It is thought that these policies may help to dig Palestinian society out of the decades-old economic and political stagnation. On a personal level, she said, the rules have left thousands of U.S. and foreign spouses perpetually anxious and uncertain. The stress, she said, had triggered her own chronic disease.
“I think what we’re seeing is a codification of something that wasn’t supposed to exist,” she said. “After years without permanence, we are seeing a new panic.”