In recent months in Ramallah, the Palestinian lawyer Rassem Kamal has seen many foreigners pass by his office, very worried about the new rules implemented by Israel, which should be implemented on Monday, to prevent entry and stay in the occupied West Bank. .. Published in February, the new procedure for entering the West Bank – a Palestinian territory colonized since 1967 by Israel – is aimed at foreigners who want to live, work, volunteer or study there. In particular, it affects many Erasmus + students.
This procedure has been postponed twice because it was challenged by the Israeli Supreme Court by 19 plaintiffs. Among them, the Israeli human rights organization Hamoked considers it “extremely restrictive” and criticizes the “intrusive and excessive criteria”. A foreigner who wants to go to the West Bank can no longer obtain a visa on arrival. He must request it 45 days before, specifically if he has first degree family in the West Bank and indicate if he owns land or if he should inherit it.
A 97-page procedure
And apart from the exceptions, he can no longer arrive through the Tel Aviv airport but only through the crossing point between Jordan and the West Bank, which is controlled by Israel. The new 97-page procedure requires in some cases to deposit a deposit of up to 70,000 shekels (20,000 euros) and requires, between two visas, a rest of several months outside the territory.
Foreigners doing business in the West Bank “rushed” Rassem Kamal to create powers of attorney in favor of Palestinian relatives as soon as the procedure became known. “They know that if the rules are enforced, their access will be restricted,” he explained.
Draconian measures for families and humanitarian aid
According to the new measures, “visa extensions are extremely restrictive. In most cases, a person must leave and sometimes stay abroad for a year before they can apply for a new visa,” said Hamoked. This has a direct impact on the foreign spouses of Palestinians who must leave as soon as their visas expire, depriving “thousands of Palestinian families of the right to live together without interruption and to live a normal family life”, criticized the association. , noting that visa applications can be denied without justification.
“These draconian measures also have a serious impact on humanitarian work,” said Canadian doctor Benjamin Thomson, director of the project “Keys to health”, which is one of the complainants who made a legal action.
Criticized the situation as far as Brussels
“The new rules will prevent many health professionals from entering the West Bank,” he said, criticizing the “uncertainty” about granting and renewing visas for his organization that trains doctors. in Palestine. Asked by AFP, Cogat, the body of the Israeli Ministry of Defense that oversees civilian affairs in the Palestinian Territories, explained that its measures should make it possible to manage visa applications “in a more efficient way and more adapted to the changing conditions of the present.”.
He welcomed that the rules of entry for teachers, students and other residents “for the first time” were clearly drawn up and said that the procedure would be tested for two years. The new policy has been criticized even in Brussels, due to the quotas imposed on university professors (150 per year) and foreign students (100) going to Palestinian universities. In 2020, 366 European students and professors attended these establishments.
Erasmus + is at risk
EU Education Commissioner Mariya Gabriel said in July that the restrictions contradicted the aims of the Erasmus+ exchange scheme.
“As Israel benefits greatly from Erasmus +, the Commission considers that it is necessary to facilitate and not restrict the access of students to Palestinian universities,” he also said, while 1,803 Israeli students and professors are be in a European university in 2020.