Gov’t agency bans all tour groups from West Bank, then says it made a mistake
Population Immigration and Border Authority says letter barring trips was issued in error; will send new missive with guidance for PA-controlled areas
Tour operators in Israel received a letter on Sunday from the Population Immigration and Border Authority (PIBA) asking them to sign a commitment to not bring tourists into the West Bank. PIBA later said the missive was sent out in error.
The letter, dated April 23 and shown on Channel 2 Monday evening, was headed “Requirement not to take tour groups into Judea and Samaria” — the biblical name for the West Bank — and signed by Michal Yosepof, who heads the PIBA’s Border Control Department.
The letter instructs tour operators that “beginning May 15, 2017, you will be required to attach to every request for scheduling a tour group in Israel a commitment form not to enter Judea and Samaria” that must be submitted to the PIBA.
It also said that “without the signing of the commitment form, the application will not be dealt with.”
The document did not make any mention of tourists entering the West Bank without a tour a operator.
Such a ban would prevent tourists from visiting Jewish settlements, as well as bar Christian pilgrims from important biblical sites such as Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity and the Jordan River.
However, Channel 2 reported that the PIBA said the letter was a mistake and was to meant focus only on areas of the West Bank controlled by the Palestinian Authority.
Furthermore, the PIBA said that entry to PA controlled territory would not be banned under the new directive, but would require coordination before hand with the relevant Israeli authorities.
The PIBA also told Channel 2 that it would reissue a letter to tour operators to clarify the situation in the near future.