West Bank Tourists Can Get Visas if They Visit Israel, Too

Memo comes after Interior Min. started restricting movement of foreigners with connections in West Bank.

The Interior Ministry promised the Tourism Ministry last week that tourists who declare that they intend to enter only the Palestinian Authority will have their passports stamped "Palestinian Authority only," while tourists who declare they intend to visit both Israel and the Palestinian Authority will have their passports stamped with a regular B2 tourist visa, according to an internal memo from a senior Tourism Ministry official.

The memo, written in English, was circulated on August 20 by Tourism Ministry senior deputy director general Raphael Ben-Hur to senior ministry officials.

The memo comes after the Interior Ministry started restricting the movement of foreign nationals with connections in the West Bank. Ben-Hur wrote that in light of the Interior Ministry's assurances, there was no cause for concern that tourism might be damaged. He also wrote that the limitations do not apply to tourists entering the country via Ben-Gurion International Airport.

The limitations imposed - which the United States has protested as discriminatory against its citizens - harm not only "ordinary" tourists, but also citizens of Western countries who have connections to the West Bank. These individuals are classified as "tourists" because Israel refuses to issue work visas or long-term visas to most of them. Israel also prevents such visitors from entering the country via Ben-Gurion Airport.

For example, when Canadian businessman Mohammed Sabawi returned Saturday from a short trip, he received a visa valid only for the "territory of the Palestinian Authority." Haaretz reported Sabawi's story last week.

In the case of S.A., a foreign national who teaches at one of the Palestinian universities, last year she received a tourist visa for a year. Sunday, when she returned from a vacation abroad, she was refused entry to Israel.