idf roadblock 298 88 idf.
(photo credit: IDF [file])
The Foreign Ministry has issued directives to foreign embassies and consulates in Israel explaining the new regulations for allowing foreign passport holders who are not listed in the Palestinian population registry to spend time in the West Bank, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman confirmed on Sunday.
This marks the first time the government has issued an official statement of its new policy to the countries with which it maintains diplomatic relations according to which their citizens may extend their entry visas for up to 27 months without having to leave the West Bank and apply from outside Israel.
Over the past year, Israel had stopped its long-standing policy of issuing visas for up to a year and allowing visa bearers to extend their permits without leaving the West Bank.
During that year, Israel announced that it would no longer allow visitors to extend their visas from within the West Bank and rejected the applications of many who applied from abroad, thus prohibiting their return.
The new policy created a storm of protest within the West Bank and among organizations in some of the countries of which the would-be visitors were citizens.
The issue only affects people who are citizens of countries with which Israel has diplomatic relations, including spouses, businessmen, human rights and humanitarian activists, university lecturers, physicians and others. Many belonging to these categories are of Palestinian descent.
According to the new directives announced by the Foreign Ministry, Israel will issue three-month visas to those seeking entry to the West Bank who are not regarded as security threats.
Visa-holders will be able to apply from within the West Bank to extend their visas for a total of 27 months. After that, they will have to leave the country and apply for a new visa from abroad. Foreign spouses of Palestinian citizens, children of residents up to 16 years of age and humanitarian cases may renew their visas for one year at a time. Representatives and staff of foreign missions will renew their visas every six months.
Anita Abdullah, who has been active in the Palestinian campaign for the right of entry and re-entry of foreign passport holders to the West Bank, said there was still much confusion as to how the new system was supposed to work. Despite the new guidelines, there are at least one or two cases a day of foreign passport holders being denied their requests to renew their visas or to enter the West Bank.