The US Ambassador to Israel has said that he has "aggressively engaged" with the Israeli government over its new rules for foreigners visiting the occupied West Bank. The rules devised by COGAT, the Israeli Defence Ministry body concerned with Palestinian civil affairs, have been widely condemned.
The rule change was flagged up by Ambassador Tom Nides in some rare criticism of the apartheid state of Israel, which is heavily subsidised by America. Condemning the change, Nides tweeted that he had "aggressively engaged with the Israeli government on these draft rules – and we'll continue to do so in the 45-day lead up to implementation and during the 2-year pilot period."
He added that he continues to have concerns with the published protocols, and mentioned the planned change regarding COGAT's role in determining whether individuals invited by Palestinian academic institutions are qualified to enter the West Bank, and the potential negative impact on family unity.
"I fully expect the Government of Israel to make necessary adjustments during the pilot period to ensure transparency as well as the fair and equal treatment of all US citizens and other foreign nationals travelling to the West Bank."
OPINION: The US ambassador's rhetoric bolsters Israel's oppression of Palestinians
Nides' remark over Israel's treatment of US citizens appears to be in reference to concerns raised by Palestinian Americans who in June sent a letter to President Joe Biden requesting the removal of the occupation state from the US Visa Waiver Programme.
The rule change for foreigners visiting the occupied West Bank is the latest of Israel's growing list of racist and discriminatory practices. Foreigner citizens will be required to inform the Defence Ministry in Israel if they fall in love with a Palestinian. News of the rule change was reported by the BBC, sparking near universal condemnation.
The new rules stipulate that if a visitor enters into a relationship with a Palestinian in the West Bank, the couple must notify the Israeli authorities within 30 days of their engagement, wedding or the start of cohabitation, "whichever occurs first". The controversial move is part of a tightening of rules on foreigners living in or waiting to visit the occupied Palestinian territories.
Today COGAT published its revised guidelines. Since February, @usembassyjlm, @USPalAffairs, & I have aggressively engaged with the Israeli Government on these draft rules – and we'll continue to do so in the 45-day lead up to implementation & during the 2-year pilot period. 1/4
— Ambassador Tom Nides (@USAmbIsrael) September 4, 2022