JERUSALEM Ã¢â‚¬â€œ A new Israeli military policy could see tens of thousands of people living in the occupied West Bank without permits deported or facing criminal charges, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper said on Sunday.
The military, however, insisted the new orders merely formalized existing procedures and said there would be no new wave of deportations from the territory.
Haaretz said amendments to an existing order on preventing infiltration could apply to Palestinians living in the West Bank without official ID cards issued by Israel, as well as to Israelis and foreigners working in areas under limited Palestinian control.
“The order’s language is both general and ambiguous, stipulating that the term infiltrator will also be applied to Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, citizens of countries with which Israel has friendly ties (such as the United States) and Israeli citizens, whether Arab or Jewish,” the newspaper said.
“All this depends on the judgement of Israel defense forces commanders in the field.”
The military insisted the amendments merely formalize the military advocate’s oversight of the deportation process and did not change the criteria by which it judges illegal residency.
“The order is the same as that which has always existed regarding Palestinians residing illegally in the Judaea and Samaria area,” military spokeswoman Avital Leibovitz said, using the biblical name for the West Bank.
“There is really nothing major here.”
Haaretz said the new order would probably be used first against Palestinians with Gaza ID cards and the foreign spouses of Palestinians living in the territory.
It said that until now Israeli civil courts have generally prevented such expulsions but that the amended order would grant the military full jurisdiction over the matter.
Hamoked, an Israeli rights group focused on freedom of movement, called on the military to rescind the orders because they “do not define what Israel considers a valid permit.”
“The definition of ‘infiltrator,’ which exposes a person to a prison term of three to seven years could, in principle, be applied to any person the military commander wishes ill, including Israeli and international citizens,” it said.
Israel seized the West Bank including east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War. It is expected to form the main part of the Palestinians’ promised future state.
The Israeli military can issue its own orders in the West Bank, but these can be overturned by the government or by Israeli courts.