Palestinians with babies born since the Palestinian Authority halted security and civilian coordination with Israel cannot register their infants in the Israeli population registry, preventing the children from receiving a passport and leaving the West Bank to travel abroad.
In recent months, the Israeli rights group Hamoked has received dozens of requests for help from families in arranging the registration. Because of insufficient staffing, Hamoked has passed on only 15 of these requests to Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank, and so far, only three of the requests have been approved.
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Palestinian babies born in the West Bank are registered in the Palestinian population registry and receive an ID card and passport from the PA. Under the Oslo Accords, the PA must pass on information to Israel on passports and ID cards it has issued to West Bank residents.
Now that the PA has halted coordination with Israel, it is no longer passing this information on to Israel. In recent months, when Palestinian families have arrived at the Allenby Bridge, they have been denied entry into Jordan.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced the halting of all coordination in February 2020, in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s peace plan and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s intention to annex parts of the West Bank. In practice, the coordination ended in May.
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Hiya Shobaro, a resident of the West Bank, normally lives with her husband Nidal in the United Arab Emirates, where he has been working for about a year. Shobaro returned to the West Bank in February, along with her son, to give birth near her family.
Her daughter Aliya was born in early April but was registered with the Palestinian Interior Ministry only in May because of the coronavirus lockdown – after the PA had halted relations with Israel.
In July, Shobaro tried to leave the West Bank with her children to return to the UAE twice, but the Israeli authorities blocked this because Aliya was not registered in the Israeli population registry.
“We went to the headquarters of the Civil Administration; they told us that for now there’s no contact with the Palestinian Interior Ministry,” Shobaro said. “We went to the Palestinian Interior Ministry, and they told us they don’t talk to the Israelis.”
Duaa Ramadan, a U.S. citizen who is married to a West Bank resident, has run into the same problem. Her son Layth was born in 2019 – long before the Palestinians halted coordination with Israel.
Recently, the couple decided to move to the United States with their three children, and even coordinated the move with the U.S. Embassy. When they reached the Allenby Bridge, they were told they could not cross with Layth because he was not registered in the Israeli population registry.
“We had already packed everything and then suddenly they told us that we couldn’t leave, without anyone telling us in advance that it would be a problem,” Ramadan said. “It’s hard psychologically when everything is up in the air and we don’t know when we’ll be able to leave.”
The halting of coordination has left the Palestinians without the services they needed from either Israel or the PA. A few families who approached the Civil Administration directly to register their children succeeded, but most West Bank residents are unaware of the option, and both the Israeli and Palestinian authorities make no effort to inform them.
Israel does not have a clear policy on such issues: Should Palestinians have an easy way to register in Israel, the PA would effectively be made unnecessary, in a way that contradicts the Oslo Accords.
The problem also applies to Gazans abroad seeking to enter the West Bank, and from there travel on to the Gaza Strip. Normally, they would ask for a permit from the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee, which operates on behalf of the PA and mediates between Gaza residents and the Israeli authorities. The committee also handles permit requests, as dictated by the Oslo Accords.
But the committee stopped sending requests on to Israel, which has not provided any alternative. Israel, for example, could let Gazans apply directly online, but that would make the Civil Affairs Committee unnecessary.
“We can’t agree to an ongoing situation where families are trapped in the power games between Israel and the authority,” said Jessica Montell, Hamoked’s executive director.
She says Israel, as the entity controlling border crossings, “is legally compelled to allow complete freedom of movement to Palestinians, regardless of any decisions made by the PA.”
For its part, Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said the Palestinian population registry falls completely under the authority of the PA, and it is the PA’s responsibility to update Israeli agencies of any information needed to accept services from Israel.
“Despite the halting of security and civil coordination with Israel by the PA, requests submitted by Palestinian residents to ... the Civil Administration are being evaluated according to the regulations,” it said.