Israel okays Palestinian residency claims, a first since 2009

Israel granted approval on Tuesday for 4,000 Palestinians to register as residents of the West Bank, the first such move in the Israeli-occupied territory in 12 years. 

The newly regularised residents had already been living in the West Bank, including 1,200 people considered “undocumented” because they had not been registered with the Palestinian Population Registry and another 2,800 who had previously been identified as residents of the blockaded Gaza Strip. 

Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said he had approved the new registrations on “humanitarian” grounds as part of his “policy to strengthen the economy and improve the lives of Palestinians in Judea and Samaria,” using the biblical terms for the southern and northern West Bank. 

Israel has occupied the West Bank since the Six-Day War of 1967 and exercises full administrative control across much of the territory. 

The new approvals will make thousands of people newly eligible to get Palestinian Authority identification documents and change their residential address. 

The branch of the Israeli military responsible for civil affairs in the occupied Palestinian territories, COGAT, told AFP that Israel had not approved a new batch of Palestinian registrations in the West Bank since 2009. 

Israel’s governing coalition, which ended right-winger Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12 straight years in office in June, is committed to boosting livelihoods in the West Bank. 

Excluding annexed east Jerusalem, some 475,000 Israeli Jews live in settlements in the West Bank considered illegal under international law on land Palestinians claim as part of their future state.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, the former head of a settler lobby group, opposes Palestinian statehood and has ruled out formal peace talks with the Palestinian Authority during his tenure, saying he prefers to focus on economic improvements.