Codifying Reality

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Israel amended a draft of controversial rules this week that would have imposed steep restrictions on foreigners wanting to live or visit the occupied West Bank, following widespread criticism of the rules, the Middle East Eye reported.

The original draft was released by the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the division of the Israeli defense ministry in charge of civil affairs in the Palestinian territories.

It would have ordered foreigners to inform Israeli authorities within 30 days if they had started a relationship with a Palestinian ID holder. If the couple got married, they would have had to depart after 27 months for a cooling-off period of at least six months.

The earlier draft also imposed a quota for 150 student visas and 100 foreign lecturers at Palestinian universities. There are no such limits on Israeli ones.

Many Palestinian and Israeli non-governmental organizations described the new regulations as “taking restrictions to a new level” but the Israeli government says it is codifying norms already in place for years, the BBC wrote.

But following widespread criticism, COGAT amended the rules to remove the “love interest” requirement and the education quotas.

Even so, businesses and aid organizations told the BBC that they will also be impacted because the new regulations set strict limits on the duration of visas and visa extensions, which would prevent people from working or volunteering in the West Bank for longer than a few months.

A spokeswoman from COGAT declined to comment on the new restrictions, according to the Washington Post. But the document says the goal is to “define the levels of authority and the manner of processing for applications from foreigners who wish to enter the (West Bank) area through the international crossings.”

The government has previously said the restrictions are necessary for security reasons.

Jessica Montell, executive director of the Israeli non-governmental organization HaMoked, however, described the restrictions as “demographic engineering of Palestinian society,” adding that such rules isolate Palestinians from the outside world.

Montell’s organization previously petitioned the Israeli High Court against the regulations. But the court rejected the petition in July, saying that COGAT had yet to reach a “final decision” on them.

Israel seized the West Bank from Jordan during the 1967 Six-Day War.

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