Yesterday The Electronic Intifada reported exclusively that Israel is now stamping the passports of visitors in the West Bank “Judea and Samaria only.”
Today, two reporters took up the issue at the daily State Department briefing and asked whether it indicated “creeping annexation” by Israel of the occupied West Bank by Israel.
The second reporter, Matthew Lee of the Associated Press, compared the State Department’s apparent lack of concern over the issue with its willingless to raise with Beijing concerns over a map in Chinese passports depicting disputed areas of the South China Sea as part of China’s territorial waters.
The exchange can be heard just after 6 minutes into the video.
This is the segment from the official transcript of the reporters’ sparring over the matter with State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner:
QUESTION: I have one last question on – if you indulge me – on the West Bank. The Israelis now are stamping visitors’ American visitors and others, when they enter the West Bank as Judea and Samaria. Are you concerned about that? Did you express your concern to the Israelis?
MR. TONER: I’ve looked into it. I don’t have much to say about it beyond the fact that it’s really a question better directed to the Israeli Government for their specifics on their border procedures. My understanding is that this stamp is for – is an entry stamp that permits travel –
QUESTION: Into the West Bank?
MR. TONER: – into the West Bank.
QUESTION: But you do recognize the West Bank as occupied territory; correct?
MR. TONER: Again, this is a question, I think, on the actual stamp and what it says. I think it’s best directed to the Israeli Government.
QUESTION: Well, can’t you see if there is more that you can say about this, considering the fact that you took great pains to say that the Chinese map and their map and the Chinese passport was wrong? And this would seem to follow along the same lines. If the Israelis are now using words that would imply that they’re – that would – that might imply a claim over territory, it would seem to be roughly the same as the Chinese passport issue, which you said you were raising with the Chinese.
MR. TONER: I wouldn’t conflate the two issues. I could look to see if we have anything more to say on it, but I think – the emphasis on the word “might” – I think that this is a stamp that they provide for –
QUESTION: Well, the point is that I don’t think –
MR. TONER: – travelers into Palestinian Authority-controlled areas of the West Bank.
QUESTION: Well, have you talked –
MR. TONER: I have not. We’ve not sought clarification on it. I’ll check.
QUESTION: You’ve not? Because I would think that you might want to, to make sure that this isn’t – this is not something that prejudges the outcome of a negotiation, which is the same thing as the Chinese passport –
MR. TONER: I’ll look into it. But obviously you know what our position is on that, but I’ll look into it.
QUESTION: Well, then you would have a problem with it if – MR. TONER: I’ll look into it, Matt.
QUESTION: Would you be concerned that this might be interpreted as creeping annexation?
MR. TONER: Again, I think I just told Matt I don’t have many details, beyond the fact that this is a stamp that their customs and border agency provides stamps on passports for people to go into these Palestinian Authority-controlled areas. I’ll try to get more details if we have any on the actual names that they’re using.