Israel to Require West Bank Visitors to Declare Romantic Relationships With Palestinians

Israel’s new regulations will also cut the duration of spouse visas, as well as capping the amount of foreign students and lecturers in the West Bank

New regulations on the entry of foreigners into the West Bank are expected to take effect on Monday, including a requirement that foreigners inform Israel if they have a romantic relation with someone in the Palestinian territories, as well as limitations on spousal visits and the entry of foreign students and lecturers.

The regulations stipulate that those who begin a romantic relationship with someone in the West Bank must declare such a relationship to Israel within 30 days of arriving. If they fail to do so, their existing visa will expire, and it will compromise their ability to receive a spouse visa in the future.

For the purpose of these regulations, the ‘start’ of a romantic relationship refers to an engagement ceremony, a wedding, or cohabitation – whichever comes first.

Various European countries have expressed criticism against Israel in recent months regarding the regulations – which were initially supposed to take effect in May, specifically reprimanding the limitations on partners of Palestinians and the quota of 150 per year to be placed on the entry of foreign students. It remains unclear whether any amendments were made to the initial regulations.

The European Commission said in July that the limitation on students will impact Europeans coming to participate in the Erasmus program in the West Bank.

‘With Israel itself benefitting greatly from Erasmus+, the Commission considers that it should facilitate and not hinder access of students to Palestinian universities,’ European Commissioner Mariya Gabriel has said.

The Commission added that it was monitoring the situation and expressing its concern to Israeli officials at the highest level.

The Center for the Defense of the Individual (HaMoked) submitted an appeal against the new regulations in June on behalf of 19 petitioners – including Palestinian families who will not be able to continue living together and a businessman and doctor who will not be able to partake in a medical training program.

The state replied later in June that it would postpone the doctor’s entry into the West Bank until September 5, as they were still reviewing other petitions.

‘The new procedure will seriously harm Palestinian society and disrupt the lives of tens of thousands of families,’ HaMoked CEO Jessica Montell told Haaretz, ‘The army is allowed to restrict the entry of a foreigner to the [occupied] territories for security reasons. But there is no legal basis for what appears to be an attempt to demographically engineer and isolate Palestinian society.’

Spousal visas, according to the new regulations, will only be valid for a period of three months – and can only be extended in special cases for an additional three months. In the past, they could be extended by up to two years. Additionally, after leaving the West Bank, the spouse of a Palestinian will have to wait six months before submitting a new entry request.

The regulations also state that visa applications for foreign lecturers must be submitted in their country of origin, after which it will be reviewed by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, and approved only if it ‘has been proven to his satisfaction… that the lecturer has made a significant contribution to academic education, to the economy of the region, or to the promotion of cooperation and regional peace.’

Similar to student visas, lecturer visas will also be limited by a quota set by Israel, which is currently 100 per year.

In June, more than a dozen progressive Democratic lawmakers pointed to the new regulations as cause for preventing Israel’s admission into the Visa Waiver Program, since that program requires Israel to extend the same treatment to American passport holders as Israeli nationals receive at U.S. ports of entry.