Report of ICRR Meeting
Meeting on Thursday, January 11, 2007
on Entry Requirements of Foreign Nationals into the West Bank
Participants: Aharon (Arkee) Eviatar ,Rachel Giora, Yehuda Kupferman, Attorney Gabi Laski, Ruchama Marton, Dorothy Naor, Israel Naor, Yosefa Sartiel, Dana Ron, Snait Gissis.
The meeting, held at Prof. Kupferman’s residence, focused on the letter of Dec. 28, 2006 by Gen. Joseph Mishlav (COGAT) to Dr. Saeb Erakat on the entry of foreign nationals into the West Bank. The letter addresses changes in policy regarding the entry of foreign nationals from countries maintaining diplomatic relations with Israel into the West Bank. To start with, Gen. Mishlav’s letter advises that the changes in policy make it now possible for foreign nationals to enter the West Bank (insinuating that until now foreign nationals were not allowed to enter the West Bank).
The letter addresses the entry of foreign nationals into the West Bank regardless of their original ethnicity implying that it applies to all foreign nationals regardless whether they were of Palestinian origin or not.
Attorney Gabi Laski whose initial comment was that she would need to see a legally binding Hebrew version of the document to eliminate misinterpretations, directed the discussion of the letter. The general reaction of the Group to the letter was that it was not comprehensive, was unclear, and left many questions unanswered.
The major change in policy appeared to be the requirement to obtain, a priori, a military clearance (or, ‘the military commander’s consent’ as quoted) in addition to an entry permit issued by the Ministry of Interior
The letter distinguishes among countries that maintain diplomatic relations with Israel between countries that do not have visa agreements with Israel and those that do.
In countries that do not have visa agreement, foreign nationals are required to obtain a visa from the Ministry of Interior via the embassy or consulate at the country of origin to enter the West Bank through Israel.
Question: Where does the foreign national obtain the prior military clearance? Does it imply that the foreign national applies abroad for a visa to enter Israel and after arriving in Israel applies for the military clearance and the Ministry’s permit to enter the West Bank?
In countries that have visa agreements, a foreign national is recommended to appear at an embassy or consulate in his/her country for preliminary coordination. Without such coordination the foreign national may be subject to some (!) checking at the border crossing.
Question: What does a preliminary coordination involve?
The letter mentions 7 groups eligible to enter the West Bank, including spouses of local residents, workers of ‘international representation offices in Israel, representatives of International Organizations (I.O.), businessmen (etc), people holding working permits (issued by whom?), pilgrims, reporters, volunteers, lecturers, consultants, and others.
Comments: The list of seven eligible groups is very restrictive as it excludes the following:
· First degree family members, e.g. parents and children (this is more restrictive than the list of eligible visitors of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons)
· Other relatives: grandparents, grandchildren, uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews,
On Visa Renewal (Extension)
The letter states that visas can be extended by applying to the Palestinian Population Registry Representative in Ramallah or, exceptionally, by applying (in person?) to the representative of the Ministry of Interior at Beit El.
· Applying at Ramallah imposes considerable hardships and loss of time to people living in other towns who have to cross interior checkpoints to get into Ramallah. Applying at Bet El is impossible for ethnic Palestinians with foreign passports.
· A time frame should be stated within which visas will be extended. Otherwise the whole regulation becomes meaningless.
According to the letter, four groups (spouses, businessmen, investors, holders of working permits) are eligible to be issued 1 year visas with a maximum staying time of 27 months but employees of International Organizations (I.O.) are eligible for only 6-months visa extensions.
Question: Why the difference between the four groups and I.Os? Considering that employees of IOs (e.g. the Red Cross, various UN agencies, etc.) are long-term employees treating them as tourists is totally unreasonable.
1. No time frame is given for the implementation of stated regulations.
2. Despite earlier (Nov. 2006) ‘promises’ by Gen. Mishlav to post COGAT representatives at the Allenby Bridge and a few weeks later at Ben Gurion airport, to ‘avoid difficulties’ nothing has changed since. At this point in time people who should be eligible to enter the West Bank according to the letter, are still being detained at ports of entry and deported and applications for visa extensions have been unsuccessful.
1. Following a meeting of the Palestinian Committee and formulation of its reaction to Gen.Mishlav’s letter, Gabi Lasky will prepare a reply to Gen. Mishlav, jointly with the Palestinian Committee’s lawyer.
2. Dorothy will contact Akiva Eldar for an article in Haaretz on Gen. Mishlav’s letter and our joint response.
3. ICRR individuals will acvise foreign embassies that notwithstanding the COGAT letter to Dr, Erakat, things remain as they were prior to that letter.