Ministers Demand Entry Into Israel for Palestinian Students

Following High Court recommendation, gov't to evaluate entry request by Palestinian doctoral student.

Education Minister Yuli Tamir and Culture Minister Ophir Pines-Paz demanded on Wednesday that Defense Minister Amir Peretz rescind the ban barring Palestinians studying in Israeli universities from entering Israel.

Peretz promised to consider the ministers' demands.

Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein expressed concern at the absence of an "exceptional framework" for dealing with requests for entry to Israel for educational purposes.

Rubinstein said that it is not as if thousands of Palestinian doctoral students are waiting to enter Israel, and in any case a sweeping ban on entry is liable to harm prospects of Israeli-Palestinian cooperation.

"It is unacceptable to comprehensively ban entry to all students, without having specific intelligence regarding students that may pose security threats," Pines-Paz said.

Pines maintains that the ban deals a severe blow to academic freedom in Israel, and could result in a boycott against Israel's academic institutions as well as spur international condemnation.

The High Court of Justice on Wednesday recommended the government evaluate a request for entry made by Sawsan Salameh, a Palestinian student accepted to doctoral studies at Hebrew University of Jerusalem but barred from entering Israel.

This is despite the government policy that went into affect rougly one month ago, whereby all Palestinian students are barred from entering Israel and individual cases are not evaluated.

Salameh and Access (Gisha), an association that advocates freedom of movement in the territories, petitioned the High Court against the decision barring her entry.

The High Court recommended the government evaluate her request individually and respond to it within a week. The government announced in response that it will acede to the High Court's requested.

Six university heads also asked Peretz to evaluate each student individually and allow students who do not pose a threat to enter Israel freely.

The heads of the universities, Professor Danny Levitan of Tel Aviv University, Professor Yossi Ben Artzi of University of Haifa, Professor Aviv Rosen of the Technion, and Professor Yosef Yarden of the Weizmann Institute of Science, wrote Peretz that Israel's universities have a strict policy of opening their gates to anyone who meets their academic criteria without regard to gender, religion ethnicity or nationality.

Court to discuss request to allow Israeli-Arabs into Gaza for holidays The High Court of Justice is scheduled to discuss on Thursday a petition submitted by the human rights organization HaMoked (Center for the Defense of the Individual) requesting entry into the Gaza Strip be granted to Israeli-Arabs during Muslim holidays.

HaMoked requests that Israeli-Arabs be allowed to enter Gaza as early as next week.

The petition was submitted after state officials notified the HaMoked center that this year Israeli-Arabs will be barred from entering the Gaza Strip due to Israel's difficulty in coordinating such visits with the Hamas government of the Palestinian Authority.

The question whether to allow Israeli-Arabs and Palestinian residents of Jerusalem into Gaza rises every year ahead of the Muslim holidays Eid al-Fitr (end of Ramadan) and Eid al-Adha (festival of sacrifices). In previous years, Israel sanctioned the opening of the Erez crossing into Gaza during specific hours, and many Muslims didn't make it across during the allotted time.

HaMoked officials said that following previous petitions regarding this issue, Israeli officials agreed to allow entry to individuals whose immediate family members reside in Gaza, but have not actualized their promise.

HaMoked officials maintain the Hamas government does not require Israel to coordinate entry of Israeli-Arabs into the Palestinian Authority with them, and add that Israeli-Arabs have been granted entry into Gaza since Hamas rose to power, and the visits have never been coordinated with the Hamas in the past.

"We are concerned that hiding behind this excuse are other considerations, having to do with the exertion of pressure upon the Palestinian population of the Gaza Strip in order to achieve political goals," a HaMoked spokesman said.