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Haaretz: “Israel grants W. Bank access to foreign citizens of Palestinian origin”

by Amira Hass, January 17th

Israel on Tuesday sent a letter to the Palestinian Authority granting Palestinians with foreign citizenship permission to enter the West Bank, yet activists say the new rule is not being implemented.

The letter from Major General Yosef Mishlav, the coordinator of government activities in the territories, to Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat was released Tuesday at a press conference in Ramallah.

“I am informing you that policy regarding the entrance of foreign citizens of countries who have diplomatic ties with Israel has changed, and their entrance to the West Bank is now possible,” Mishlav wrote in his letter.

Erekat delivered the letter, which was dated December 28, to activists of “The Campaign for the Right to Re-Entrance to the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

The activists are mostly citizens of Western nations of Palestinian origin, or are married to Palestinians who reside in the territories.

The letter details new procedures that the Defense Ministry will take in order to allow Palestinians of Western citizenship (mostly Americans) to enter the territories and stay for a period of time.

The activists said that the new rules do not solve the crisis, which they say started in 2006 when Israel preventing thousands of American or European citizens of Palestinian origin from entering the West Bank. Most of these citizens were born in the West Bank and their residency status was terminated by Israel.

The activists maintain that they know of at least 14 foreign citizens who only last week were denied entrance to the territories. Some of them were even held in custody at Ben Gurion Airport for 4-5 days. Others received entrance for only a month, as opposed to the three month stay that Mishlav wrote to Erekat.