Love Under Olive Branches: What If You Had To Report Your Relationship To The Israeli Defense Ministry?

Love Under Olive Branches: What If You Had To Report Your Relationship To The Israeli Defense Ministry?
Photo by Anastasia Zhenina via Unsplash, edited via Canva


Vivien Fakhoury

Middle East and Human Rights Researcher

Global Human Rights Defence

In an attempt to tighten rules on foreigners deciding to visit or live in the West Bank, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT - a branch of Israel’s Ministry of Defense) put in place a set of controversial rules. A 97-page document, which has now been removed from the government’s website, [1] stipulated that foreigners visiting certain parts of the West Bank must disclose their relationship with Palestinian ID holders to Israel’s Ministry of Defense, to acquire a residence or visitors permit. If their relationship started before travel, they must report it for entry requirement purposes and if it starts during their visit, they must report it within 30 days of the relationship beginning. [2] According to the rule, a relationship entails engagement, marriage, or cohabitation - “whichever occurs first.” [3]

If the relationship is not formalized within 90 days, the foreigner must leave the country immediately. Once the relationship has been reported, after 27 months the foreigner must leave the country for a 6-month cooling-off period, even in the case of marriage. [4] This could discourage foreigners from coming to the West Bank in the first place, or even encourage Palestinian ID holders to permanently leave with their foreign spouse to avoid the back and forth to keep their relationships alive. “This is about demographic engineering of Palestinian society and isolating Palestinian society from the outside world.” [5]

The document also created uncertainty for the business and education sectors due to other outlined rules. For instance, a quota of 150 foreign student visas and 100 foreign lecturer visas for Palestinian universities, and stricter limitations on visa duration and extension. [6] According to the European Commission, such rules hinder programs like Erasmus+ which both the EU and Israel greatly benefit from. [7] For businesses, this would severely limit employees, investors, suppliers, and quality control experts from traveling to the West Bank. Additionally, visitors with a West Bank-only permit must enter by land crossing from Jordan and may not use Israel’s Ben Gurion international airport. [8] This is a non-exhaustive list of issues.

The rule book was already published in February, but was delayed twice by legal challenges. [9] In June, HaMoked, an Israeli non-governmental organization, filed a petition signed by 19 individuals to the High Court of Justice to halt the procedures. [10] Nevertheless, the rules were set to come into effect on September 5th, 2022. [11] But as a result of much backlash, the rules were amended on September 4th, 2022, and the previous document was replaced by a new 90-page document, which will take effect on October 20th, 2022, including a two-year trial period within which rules can be changed as needed. [12] The relationship reporting and student and lecturer quotas have been scraped, and visa extensions are more lenient. [13] Although Israel’s change of heart paints a less-discriminatory picture, if it weren’t for international pressure the rules would have taken effect and there remain many other issues with the document that have yet to be fixed.


[1] Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT). (2022, February). Procedure for entry and residence of foreigners in the Judea and Samaria area.נוהל%20כניסת%20ושהיית%20זרים%20באיוש%20-%20פברואר%202022(en)%20(סופי).pdf

[2] Knell, Y. (2022, September 2). Israeli rules say West Bank visitors must declare love interest. BBC.; The Times of Israel. (2022, September 3). Foreign West Bank visitors must tell Israel if they 'form a couple' with Palestinian. The Times of Israel.

[3] The Times of Israel. (2022, September 3).

[4] Knell, Y. (2022, September 2); The Times of Israel. (2022, September 3).

[5] Knell, Y. (2022, September 2).

[6] Narayanan, A. (2022, September 3). Visitors in West Bank must reveal any Palestinian love interest to Israeli authority. Al Arabiya.