The Daily Telegraph

Israel clamps down on Palestinia­n love affairs

Rule ordering foreigners in West Bank to declare love interest is effort to ‘control’ society, claim activists

- By James Rothwell in Jerusalem

Foreigners visiting the West Bank must tell Israel if they fall in love with a Palestinia­n, under sweeping new rules that will significan­tly increase control over those living under military occupation. The rules, which come into effect today and do not apply to Israeli settlement­s, will require foreigners to declare any romantic relationsh­ips with a Palestinia­n in the West Bank. Failure to notify Israel within 90 days will result in the foreigner being forced to leave, according to The Times of Israel.

FOREIGNERS visiting the West Bank must tell Israel if they fall in love with a Palestinia­n, under new rules that will increase Israeli control over those living under military occupation.

The rules, which come into effect today and do not apply to Israeli settlement­s, will require foreigners to declare any romantic relationsh­ips with a Palestinia­n in the West Bank. Foreigners who have married or are planning to marry a Palestinia­n – or simply have a relationsh­ip with them – must notify COGAT, the Israeli military body that administer­s the occupation of the West Bank.

Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan in 1967 during the Six-day War.

Failure to notify Israel within 90 days will result in the foreigner being forced to leave, according to The Times of Israel. The rules also state that if a foreigner marries a Palestinia­n, they will need to leave after 27 months for a cooling-off period of half a year, in order to secure a new residency permit.

Israeli and Palestinia­n activists have criticised the rules, which they say attempt to “micromanag­e” the growth of Palestinia­n families and society.

However, COGAT maintains that the new rules are “more efficient and more suited to the dynamic conditions of the times”. It also said the directive would be in place for a two-year trial period.

The new regulation­s are listed in a 97-page COGAT order called “procedure for entry and residence of foreigners in the Judea and Samaria area”.

The rules were published in early 2022 but then delayed.

In addition to the relationsh­ip rules, the order sets quotas for academic exchange programmes that will allow only 100 foreign lecturers and 150 students to attend Palestinia­n universiti­es per year. Around 300 students take part in the exchanges, and there are no such limits on Israeli universiti­es.

Hamoked, an Israeli human rights group, which has led a Supreme Court appeal against the new rules, has said they will deprive “thousands of Palestinia­n families of the right to live together without interrupti­on and to live a normal family life”.

Right to Enter, a campaign group, described the order as “an already entrenched system of discrimina­tion against Palestinia­ns in the West Bank.”

It also claimed the curbs were really about imposing “control and isolation” rather than security measures to protect Israel from terrorism. As the restrictio­ns treat Palestinia­ns and Israelis in the West Bank differentl­y, Palestinia­n officials have compared the system to apartheid, a charge that Israel denies.

The European Commission, which runs the Erasmus+ foreign exchange programme, has also rebuked Israel over the new stipulatio­ns.

“The Commission regards any action resulting in limiting the flow of internatio­nal students and staff, including European ones, into Palestinia­n universiti­es as detrimenta­l to achieving the objetctive of Erasmus+ and overall negative for the internatio­nalisation of Palestinia­n universiti­es,” said Mariya Gabriel, the EU’S education commission­er. She added that the EU was raising “concerns” over the rules in bilateral talks with Israel.

The Telegraph approached COGAT for comment.

Also over the weekend, the militant group Hamas in Gaza executed five Palestinia­ns, including two convicted of “collaborat­ion” with Israel.

The executions were the first carried out in Gaza in five years.

Yesterday afternoon, seven people were injured when Palestinia­n gunman opened fire on a bus containing Israeli soldiers in the Jordan Valley.

Israeli officials said one of the soldiers was seriously injured, while the civilian bus driver was among the wounded.

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