(photo credit: AP [file])
Israel has rescinded some travel privileges for Arab Christian clergy traveling to and around the West Bank because of security concerns, an Israeli spokeswoman said Friday.
The decision means the religious leaders' visas will be good for one entry only, and not for repeat visits as in the past, Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabine Haddad said. This means they will be required to coordinate each trip they make, she said.
"According to a request by security officials, we restricted the visas of the clergy," Haddad said. "We are trying to find a solution to make it easier for them."
Israel and the Palestinian territories are home to a small Christian minority, with members of the religion comprising less than two percent of the Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It was not immediately clear how many Christian leaders would be affected by the change.
Israel has in the past tried to maintain warm ties with Christians, often easing restrictions to allow pilgrims entry into the West Bank town of Bethlehem for the Christmas holiday.
Father Jack Abed, a parish priest of the Melkite Catholic community near the West Bank town of Ramallah, said the new rule violated understandings between Israel and the Vatican.
"One of the agreements is the freedom of movement and worship," he said. "There is no freedom of movement if Israel wants to limit visas to a single entry"