Israeli sources confirm W. Bank residency granted to 5,000 Palestinians
Sources tell Haaretz residency status granted on basis of family reunification as goodwill gesture to Abbas.
The state has recently agreed to grant West Bank resident status to some 5,000 people who seek family reunification with their Palestinian families, sources in the defense establishment told Haaretz.
The sources explained that the recipients had asked to be recognized as West Bank residents in the past. The decision to approve their request was part of a goodwill gesture toward the Palestinian Authority under Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, the sources said.
Palestinian officials said Wednesday that Israel had granted official residency status to 3,500 Palestinians who in the last decade entered the West Bank on Israeli-issued visitors' visas but never left.
However, the approval is a one-off incident and does not represent a renewal of the family-reunification mechanism Israel halted in 2001, following the outbreak of the second intifada.
The Oslo Accords stipulated that Israel will grant resident status to 2,000 families every year as part of family reunification. In 2000, the Israeli government agreed to increase the number to 4,000 requests per year, before pulling the plug on the project one year later.
Human rights groups HaMoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual and B'Tselem told Haaretz that 120,000 first-degree relatives have sent requests to the Palestinian Authority for family reunification. Some of the applicants are abroad, and unable to enter the West Bank. Others are already staying in the West Bank.