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Cablegate: Absence of Israeli Visas Hinders West Bank

VZCZCXYZ0013
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHJM #1830/01 2871405
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 141405Z OCT 09
FM AMCONSUL JERUSALEM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6316
INFO RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN 8669
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV 4967
RUEAHLC/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS JERUSALEM 001830

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

NEA/IPA FOR GOLDBERGER/REISSER, DEPT FOR CA/OCS/ACS/NESCA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EINV CASC CVIS PREL PREF KWBG IS
SUBJECT: ABSENCE OF ISRAELI VISAS HINDERS WEST BANK
BUSINESSES

REF: A. TEL AVIV 2106
B. JERUSALEM 1324

1. (SBU) Summary: Israeli immigration practices are limiting
West Bank enterprises' ability to conduct business, according
to contacts working on the planned Rawabi housing/commercial
estate. Because only companies and NGOs registered in Israel
can apply for Israeli work permits, West Bank companies, like
Rawabi, cannot get work permits for their non-Palestinian
consultants, employees, or investors. This restriction
forces overseas hires to enter the West Bank on tourist
visas, subjecting them to the risk of deportation. The
continued use of the "PA only" stamp at Allenby (reftels)
further limits the employees' travel and effectiveness.

2. (SBU) Summary continued: An American Citizen employee of
Rawabi was recently delayed and questioned for eleven hours
at the Allenby crossing before being permitted to enter.
Although she informed Israeli officials that her job in
Ramallah required frequent travel to Israel, she received a
"PA-only" stamp. End summary.

Eleven Hours at Allenby
-----------------------

3. (SBU) Upon returning from Amman in early October, a
23-year old Amcit employee of Rawabi developer, Bayti, was
delayed and questioned for eleven hours by GOI officials at
the Allenby crossing. She said she told them she worked for
a private company in Ramallah, owned by Bashar Masri, and
that she had left Israel to Jordan so as not to overstay the
terms of her three-month tourist visa. During the course of
the day, she claims to have been informed that the Ministry
of Interior intended to arrest her for immigration violations
and/or deport her.

4. (SBU) She claims that different Israeli officials argued
(in front of her) about what to do with her, noting that she
worked for Masri, who is well known to GOI officials who work
on West Bank economic issues. After many rounds of
questioning, she was given an entry stamp restricting her
travel to "PA-areas" only. She reiterated that her work
requires regular travel to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv for
meetings with Israelis, but was rebuffed. Fearing
deportation, she says she accepted the "PA-only" restriction
and will abide by it, despite the fact that it hampers her
ability to do her job for Rawabi.

You Need a Work Visa (But Can't Get One)
----------------------------------------

5. (SBU) Over the course of her eleven hours at Allenby, the
Amcit (who has no family ties to the West Bank or Gaza) was
repeatedly told that she was "working illegally" in the West
Bank, and that she needed to get a "work visa" and "stop
pretending to be a tourist." She says she clarified that she
has always been upfront about her work in Ramallah, and she
asked the MOI official what the process is to secure a work
visa. She claims he did not reply.

6. (SBU) Negotiations Support Unit (NSU) Legal Advisor Hala
Rashed clarified that there is no documentation that will
satisfy all elements of the GOI at the Israeli-controlled
points of entry other than an Israeli work visa. However,
she said, to get a work visa, she said, the company or NGO in
the West Bank must also have a branch in Israel, which can
secure Israeli work visas for its employees in the West Bank.
As a result, she said, such visas are "virtually ungettable"
for foreigners working in Palestinian companies.

7. (SBU) Contacts working in Ramallah confirmed that the
customary practice is to go to Amman every three months, with
proof of employment, and renew their visas upon re-entry.
Rashed said her own "work visa" is actually a B2 tourist
visa, which the GOI granted for six months upon reviewing
her contract with the PA. Post is aware that another Amcit
and former NSU advisor, Fuad Bateh, was not allowed to
re-enter via Allenby on June 28 to return to his job at the
Palestinian Water Authority. He was permitted to enter via
Ben Gurion on September 23, after high-level intervention
from the PA. Note: We know from other cases that "special
treatment" for NSU employees is a result of the direct
intervention of PLO Chief Negotiator -- and NSU boss -- Sa'eb
Erekat. End note.

Comment
-------

8. (SBU) The lack of clarity and flexibility at crossings for
international workers in the West Bank, coupled with the
continued use of the "PA-only" stamp, hampers the ability of
companies and NGOs in the West Bank to hire and retain the
talent they need. In the absence of PA immigration control
over Palestinian areas, if there is a desire to promote
foreign investment in the West Bank, Israeli practices at the
crossings will need to allow for these types of workers and
investors to travel and do their jobs. In this regard, post
notes that the new instructions on the "PA-only" stamp
promised (ref a) have apparently not yet been implemented
consistently.

RUBINSTEIN

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