(Jerusalem, September 28, 2006) – U.S. Consul General Jake Walles and chief staff members of the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem and U.S. Embassy in Israel met with representatives of the Campaign for the Right of Entry/Re-Entry to discuss Israel’s recent policy of denying entry into Israel of American citizens and other foreign nationals wishing to access the occupied Palestinian territory.
The Campaign delegates presented Ambassador Walles with an overview of the Israeli practice and its detrimental impact on family unification, economic and academic development, and the maintenance of a pluralistic social fabric needed to advance an environment for peace in the area.
Ambassador Walles acknowledged that there has been a noticeable change in the past six months of Israeli practices in issuing visas and expressed concern about the negative bearing of those actions. He stated that the Consulate has been actively involved in registering and trying to assist U.S. citizens that have reported being denied entry.
There are two general clusters of individuals affected by these new Israeli travel restrictions.
The first refers to the more than 120,000 persons awaiting family unification as per Israeli-defined rules and regulations but unable to gain permanent residency due to Israel’s refusal to process these applications. The majority of these applicants are married to Palestinian I.D. holders who are requesting residency for them. The Campaign representatives noted that their research shows that a significant number of these pending applications are for U.S. citizens and they requested that the U.S. intervene and demand Israel immediately process these applications in a transparent and accountable fashion, especially given that the occupied Palestinian territory falls under International and Humanitarian Law and not Israeli sovereignty.
The second group of people affected are foreign nationals, including Americans of Palestinian origin, destined to the West Bank and Gaza Strip for short-term visits for summer vacation, to marry, or attend a family event. There are others who are longer-term visitors and are actively involved in productive sectors of society, such as academia, healthcare, private sector and civil society organizations. Campaign representatives urged the U.S. to intervene to secure safe passage through Israel for all foreign nationals wanting to reach the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The Campaign representatives expressed that in order for the Palestinians to be able to meet the obligations that the international community desires of them, it is imperative that the human resources required to do so, whether of Palestinian decent or otherwise, be permitted to have free and unfettered access to the oPt.
The Campaign was briefed by Consul General Walles and his staff on coordination efforts between officials of the U.S. Consulate and European Union nations, many of whose citizens are also among those being refused entry, about Israel’s denial of visa practices.
While in Washington, DC recently, Ambassador Walles advised that he discussed this issue with Dr. James Zogby, President of the Arab American Institute, and emphasized that data collection was imperative. The Ambassador expressed his hope that the Campaign and Arab-American organizations in the U.S. would appeal to their communities to document the denied entry cases.
The U.S. Consulate has developed a form for U.S. citizens to register their treatment at Israeli border crossings and to document these cases of denial of entry. In addition, the Consulate and Embassy provided hotlines for those experiencing difficulties at Israeli ports of entry and urged that all instances of such Israeli denials of entry be immediately reported. The telephone numbers to be used for those arriving at the Allenby Bridge crossing is (8am-4pm) and (outside of business hours). Those entering through other Israeli ports should call . The web site for travel warnings is http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1064.html.
The State Department makes special reference in their Travel Warning and Consular Information Sheet on Israel, the West Bank and Gaza to the restrictions that Israel may put on Palestinian Americans in particular and Americans in general “who have expressed sympathy with the Palestinian cause…or intended to travel to the West Bank or the Gaza Strip”.
Consul General Walles requested a follow-up meeting with the Campaign that will be held in two weeks time to track the issue.
Coordinator, Media Committee