Israel’s tourism ministry on Monday slammed the interior ministry for enacting new restrictions that would prevent foreigners from visiting both Israel and the Palestinian territories.
The measure, which was quietly enacted earlier this year, forces arriving visitors to choose between a visa for Israel and one for the Palestinian territories, potentially preventing them from traveling to both.
"This decision taken by the interior ministry causes significant damage to Israel’s image and to incoming tourism for those tourists who visit the holy sites in the Palestinian Authority," the tourism ministry said in a statement.
It demanded that the matter be discussed in the Knesset, or parliament, which is currently on summer recess.
A spokeswoman for the interior ministry would not immediately comment.
The U.S. consulate in Jerusalem has posted a message on its website informing travelers of the new visa stamp being issued at Ben Gurion Airport and the Allenby crossing with Jordan that permits travel only in the West Bank.
"Anyone indicating that they either have connections to the West Bank or are planning to travel to the West Bank may get this stamp, which does not permit them to enter into (or, in the case of Ben Gurion, return to) green-line Israel," it says.
"The consulate can do nothing to assist in getting this visa status changed; only Israeli liaison offices in the West Bank can assist — but they rarely will. Travelers should be alert, and pay attention to which stamp they receive upon entry."
Millions of tourists and religious pilgrims flock to Middle East holy sites each year, visiting the Old City in the Israeli-occupied part of east Jerusalem — which Israel claims as part of its capital — and sites in the Palestinian towns of Bethlehem and Jericho in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
The new restrictions would also create obstacles for foreigners working in the West Bank and for Palestinians with dual citizenship who wish to visit relatives in Israel and the occupied territories.