Israel's Haaretz newspaper said on Wednesday that the Israeli occupation authorities have renewed restrictions on the free movement of foreign nationals residing in the occupied West Bank. They have also been banned from entering both Jerusalem and Israel.
It was noted by Haaretz that Israel did not announce this change in policy officially; the change was discovered when some foreigners sought to renew their tourist visas which were stamped "West Bank only" by the Israelis. "These restrictions do not apply to foreign nationals who come to live in Israel or in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank," the authorities told the newspaper.
According to the Haaretz report, officials at the US consulate have expressed dissatisfaction with the new restrictions, as they violate previous agreements which aimed to lift similar restrictions imposed by the Israeli Interior Ministry in the summer of 2009. At that time, the phrase "Palestinian Authority territories only" was stamped on foreign passports. The consulate said that the US administration is taking up this matter with the Israeli government, citing the need to have all American citizens dealt with equally and fairly, regardless of their national or ethnic origins.
Jay Inbar, the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities, said, "There is no significant change between the old and the new stamp. The restrictions related to the granting of permits are still the same, and the change is not new but was introduced six months ago, as only the stamp's language has been changed."
According to the Palestinian Interior Ministry in Ramallah the restrictions and the use of the new term came into effect at the beginning of November. It was initially imposed on Palestinian holders of foreign passports but has lately been applied to foreigners of Palestinian origin.
The newspaper noted that it would not be impossible for such citizens to reach the consulates or embassies of their countries in occupied Jerusalem, while Israel also maintains the capability of refusing to grant work visas and limiting their entry to tourist visas only.