Hundreds of Palestinians illegally enter Israel to visit tourist sites

Israeli security forces have blocked hundreds of illegal entries but critics say that the hundreds more who still do raise security concerns.

By David Hellerman, World Israel News

Palestinian tourist companies are taking advantage of gaps in the security fence to illegally bring hundreds of Palestinian tourists into Israel for day trips to popular destinations, Israel Hayom reported on Wednesday.

The paper reported that the tours are openly marketed on social media. Popular destinations include Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, Jaffa, Haifa, Lod, Tiberias, Rosh HaNikra and Mount Hermon.

According to Israel Hayom, the tourists are brought to the security barrier in Palestinian busses. After crossing through the gap, they board waiting Israeli busses. At the end of the day, the Israeli busses take them back to the security barrier where Palestinian busses wait for them on the other side of the gap.

“Other times, an Israeli bus picks them up at a pre-agreed destination, drops them off at the gap, crosses a checkpoint legally, and picks the visitors up again on the other side,” the report added.

Israel Hayom also reported that Israeli authorities are aware of the crossings but haven’t moved to stop them.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said in a statement, “IDF and Border Police officers are deployed in the area in accordance with the assessment of the situation and use various means and advanced capabilities against anyone who is identified as a danger, a terrorist, or causing damage to the security fence.”

The statement said that in the past year, the Border Police prevented hundreds of groups from entering and even confiscated around 120 busses.

“More than a hundred indictments have also been filed against bus drivers and tour organizers. In addition, the drivers and the organizers of the transportation are fined heavily and some are detained until the end of the proceedings,” it said.

But critics said the IDF needs to do more.

“It is disturbing to see how the defense establishment turns a blind eye to security matters and allows thousands of Palestinians to enter Israel through breaches in the fence,” said Matan Peleg, CEO of the right-wing NGO Im Tirtzu.

In addition to the security concerns raised by the illegal entries, Peleg noted that the visits raise a demographic concern as there is no way to know if any Palestinians remain in Israel.

On Sunday, the cabinet gave initial approval to legislation that would block Palestinians who marry Israelis from receiving permits to live in Israel with their spouses. A previous ban that was routinely renewed by the Knesset expired in July due to political fighting between the government and the opposition Likud party.

The ban, known as the Citizenship Law, was originally passed in 2003 during the height of the Second Intifada.

Despite its expiration, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked continued to implicitly enforce the ban, but on Tuesday, the High Court of Justice ruled that she could not.

“The basic rules of administrative law do not allow the enforcement of a law that is no longer on the books,” Justice Dafna Barak-Erez wrote.