Palestinian citizens take part in a general strike in solidarity with Palestinians in Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza, in the northern town of Sakhnin, on October 13, 2015. (photo: Omar Sameer)
Israel has agreed to register and legalise the status of 1,200 Palestinians living in the West Bank, in a move that is the first of its kind in over a decade, reported the Middle East Monitor.
Under the Oslo Accords signed in 1993, Israel is required to approve the residency rights of around 4,000 Palestinian couples per year in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, for the purpose of "family unification."
Israel still possesses responsibility for the population registry and the task of registering Palestinians and arranging their status, as the PA must receive Israel's approval under the Oslo Accords, except for the registration of Palestinian children and boys up to the age of 16 as well as one of their parents.
Despite that fact, the process was halted in 2000 due to the outbreak of violence during the Second Intifada. It continued for a short period of time in 2008 and 2009, following a public campaign by Palestinian families as well as court petitions filed by the Hamoked Centre for the Defence of the Individual.
In what Tel Aviv described as "a diplomatic gesture to Mahmoud Abbas," the president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), it settled the status of around 32,000 Palestinian families and permitted their unification. Since then, though, Israel has ceased the process.
That seems to have finally changed, with 1,200 Palestinians in the West Bank being registered today. Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the [occupied] Territories, Ghasan Alyan, also announced the approval of the changes of addresses of 2,800 Palestinians who moved to the West Bank from the Gaza Strip before 2007.
The approvals come two months after a meeting between Mahmoud Abbas and Israel's Defence Minister, Benny Gantz, in which they agreed to implement a number of steps, with the approvals being the first. According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, military sources have reported that the move was granted on humanitarian grounds.
During that meeting, which was heavily criticised by both the Israeli and Palestinian sides, Gantz insisted that Israel would not be removing any Jewish settlements from the West Bank.