The Israeli authorities are making it increasingly difficult for Palestinians’ foreign spouses to stay in the Occupied West Bank, according to a report by Amira Hass in Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
According to the paper, in recent months “citizens of foreign countries who are married to Palestinian residents of the West Bank have noticed that Israel has been putting more limits on their ability to stay put.”
Some women who are married to Palestinians, who until recently received visas from the Israeli occupation authorities for six or seven months, are now being given “visas valid for just over two weeks and which must be renewed over and over”.
Meetings between these women and the relevant Israeli official “led them to conclude that the arrangement of issuing year-long visas has been halted”.
According to Haaretz, “the more stringent policy came unannounced and without any explanation”. The “new rules and prohibitions…are being presented verbally to the foreign spouses,” while “the visa’s duration changes from person to person, without any clear criteria.”
Some foreign spouses of Palestinians, people with children, have recently travelled abroad to renew their visa only to be blocked by the authorities from re-entering.
Haaretz states that there are “several hundred” families in the occupied West Bank where one spouse is a foreign citizen. Many are from Jordan, “but there are also some from Europe, the United States and South America”. Some are even Palestinians born abroad.
As Israel controls the borders, “it determines which foreigners are permitted to enter the West Bank and for how long”, and “the same goes for those whose spouse and children are Palestinian residents”. Israel also controls the Palestinian population registry, and thus “determines which foreigners married to Palestinians receive resident status”.
However, since 2009, “the Israeli authorities have halted the family reunification process”, which they say is “only possible under special humanitarian circumstances”. A spouse and children are not considered “humanitarian criteria”.
Therefore, “with the process for obtaining permanent residency frozen, continuous extension of visas for the West Bank is the only legal way for foreign citizens to live with their families”.
Jerusalem attorney Leora Bechor, who has represented foreign spouses of Palestinians, told Haaretz:
Israel has apparently decided that the Palestinians don’t have the right to family life.
“First of all, the spouses of Palestinians aren’t allowed to obtain legal status in the territories via family reunification. And now on top of that, they’ve decided also to block the only path that still lets these couples live together in the territories – long-term, renewable visitor permits.”
Bechor continued: “In this way, Israel is ensuring the expulsion of many Palestinians. All the excuses used by the Civil Administration [the occupation authority] for not extending the visitor permits are just further proof that Israel is losing its mind over demographics and counting every single Palestinian who lives between the Jordan River and the sea.”