West Bank: New restrictions further isolate Palestinians

New Israeli restrictions on foreigners entering the West Bank New Israeli restrictions on foreigners entering the West Bank Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

23 January 2023

New Israeli guidelines on access to the West Bank threaten to further isolate Palestinians from global civil society and their families

The guidelines, which entered into force in October 2022 and were amended in December of the same year, introduce new procedures and restrictions on access and residence in the West Bank and separate procedures for entry into Israel. These new rules reinforce the existing ones, with which the Israeli authorities had already made it difficult to work, live and study in the West Bank.  Indeed, among the different categories of individuals to whom the restrictions apply, there are also students, volunteers and academics who, in order to carry out their activities in the West Bank, must submit an application in advance to the Israeli army, at an Israeli embassy abroad or through the Palestinian National Authority. These restrictions thus exacerbate the fragmentation of the Palestinian people. In fact, as Eric Goldstein, deputy director of Human Rights Watch of the Middle East, said, "this policy is designed to weaken the social, cultural, and intellectual ties that Palestinians have tried to maintain with the outside world."

In order to obtain the permit, one has to provide detailed personal information - such as, for example, stating whether one owns property or whether it will be inherited -  and stating the purpose of the visit to the Israeli authorities. Several witnesses have stated that this measure prevents people from initiating the procedure for obtaining the permit. In this regard, it is often advised to apply for an Israeli tourist visa, which can be obtained from spouses, children or first-degree relatives of Palestinians in the West Bank, entrepreneurs or investors, journalists accredited by the Israeli authorities. These visas last only three months - and can be renewed for a further three months only for "exceptional circumstances" - while the permit envisaged by the guidelines lasts 27 months.

The guidelines suggest that Israel considers the West Bank an integral part of its State, referring to the area as "Judea and Samaria". According to Human Rights Watch and also according to several jurists, the personal information required to obtain the entry permit could be used to apply an even more severe and invasive control over the Palestinian people, limiting their ability to create or cultivate social or intellectual ties.

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By Amalia Ranieri

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