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Israel withdraws requirement for West Bank visitors to declare love interest

Foreigners do not have to report to Israeli authorities if they have fallen in love with a Palestinian within 30 days, according to a new amendment
Newly-wed Palestinians head to have their pre-wedding photo shoot in the garden of a hotel in the city of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank on 10 April 2020 (AFP)
Newly-wed Palestinians head to their pre-wedding photo shoot at a hotel garden in the city of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank on 10 April 2020 (AFP)

Israel has amended a draft of controversial military rules that would have restricted foreigners from visiting their Palestinian partners in the occupied West Bank, following widespread criticism.

COGAT, an Israeli military body that runs the West Bank's civilian and security affairs, has modified some restrictions, including the removal of the requirement placed on foreigners to tell Israeli authorities if they have fallen in love with a Palestinian or started a relationship within 30 days of arrival.

The new document will take effect on 20 October, subject to renewal after two years.

The original draft stated that a foreigner who marries a Palestinian ID holder must leave the country after 27 months for at least half a year, while foreign spouses visiting the West Bank would be limited to three- or six-month permits. These requirements no longer appear in the latest version of document.

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The rules are part of a wider crackdown on foreigners and diaspora Palestinians wanting to live, visit, work or study in the West Bank.

The revised document also removes a quota for university lecturers and students from abroad. It additionally allows an extension of foreigners' visa from 90 to 180 days.

In the earlier draft, COGAT had set a cap of 150 student visas and 100 foreign lecturers for universities in Area A of the West Bank, a fraction of territory under the Oslo Accords meant to be under complete Palestinian control. 

Israel places no limits on how many visiting students and foreign lecturers can attend Israeli institutions. The measures would have been a major blow to student exchange programmes operated by the European Union, such as the Erasmus+ programme.

The US ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides, tweeted on Sunday: "I continue to have concerns with the published protocols, particularly regarding COGAT’s role in determining whether individuals invited by Palestinian academic institutions are qualified to enter the West Bank, and the potential negative impact on family unity."

The Israeli non-governmental organisation, HaMoked, submitted a petition to the Supreme Court to cancel the regulations, which do not apply to those visiting Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The PLO, the umbrella body representing the Palestinian people, has said that the rules bring in "apartheid regulations that impose a reality of one state and two different systems".

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