In response to your petition, although as you mentioned they said they were working on new regulations for many years, they presented this new set of regulations which went from four pages to 60-something pages in Hebrew and 90-something pages in English. What are the new restrictions that they added, and why are they problematic?
So, firstly, the new restrictions represent many of the problems that we had raised in our initial petition. But instead of a new policy that corrected those problems, they aggravated them and made the new policy more draconian.
The new policy affects broad areas of Palestinian society and basically creates a situation in which Israel reaches into what should be independent decisions of the Palestinian authorities. For example, the policy creates restrictions on the number of foreign academics who can teach in Palestinian universities. It restricts the qualifications of those academics. It restricts the period of time in which those academics can stay in the West Bank. The same is true for foreign students.
It profoundly restricts the ability of foreign volunteers to volunteer in critical Palestinian institutions, including in areas of public health and welfare and education. It doesn’t allow for any employment or volunteering in secondary schools. It doesn’t allow for professional lecturers to teach or lecture in non-academic institutions. So, for example, a world-renowned heart surgeon can no longer come and train Palestinian doctors so that they then have the skills to treat their own patients.
How is this going to affect American citizens of Palestinian descent?
First of all, the requirements of applying in advance and the form that foreigners must fill out has actually been in place for several years. It’s been used for categories of persons who wouldn’t otherwise be eligible for entry. It’s been used for volunteers and employees. It’s been used for people who in the past had been denied entry to the West Bank. It had not been used, for example, for a foreign spouse who never had any issues with visas.
During corona, they started requiring all foreign nationals to declare their intention to go exclusively to the West Bank to use that form. All of those people in the past several years, as far back as 2014, were required to enter exclusively via Allenby Bridge with rare exception.
But the new policy specifically states that—and this was the case prior—that if there’s a mixed visit, meaning the person is intending to visit both Israel and the West Bank, then the policy does not apply to them and they can enter through Israel and visit both Israel and the West Bank.
At the end of the new regulations, there is an application form which, among other things, asks if the person owns land or is claiming an inheritance in the West Bank. What are they getting at? What is Israel’s interest in determining those types of connections?
It’s my belief that those sections that deal with property are a way of determining whether the person is intending to come for a short trip or whether the intention is actually to remain in the West Bank and what they call “illegally immigrate.”
There is a specific section in the new policy that states that if someone is coming for a short-term visit—and there are very few classes of people who can come for a short-term visit—those people are not allowed to work and they are not allowed to own property. It’s possible that the question about whether you have family members in the West Bank is also tied to that, whether you have family members there and the risk that you’re going to breach the terms of your visa—let’s say you have three months and you end up living there for 10 years—because they want as few people as possible living in the West Bank.
What’s going to happen now?
We have a court hearing scheduled for May 2. On April 28, yesterday, COGAT updated the court that they’ve made a decision to postpone the implementation of the new policy by an additional 45 days so they can address the reservations that we made, but that they still want the case to be dismissed.