US Ambassador Tom Nides
US Ambassador Tom NidesUS Embassy in Jerusalem

Tensions have been growing between Israel and the United States over a policy implemented by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) under which Israel could limit the number of foreign students allowed to study in academic institutions in the Palestinian Authority has caused outrage in Washington. On Sunday US ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides published a stern statement regarding the new policy.

"Today COGAT published its revised guidelines. Since February, U.S. Embassy Jerusalem, the U.S. Office of Palestinian Affairs, and I have aggressively engaged with the Government of Israel on these draft rules – and we will continue to do so in the 45-day lead-up to implementation and during the two-year pilot period," the envoy wrote in his statement.

"I continue to have concerns with the published protocols, particularly regarding COGAT’s role in determining whether individuals invited by Palestinian academic institutions are qualified to enter the West Bank, and the potential negative impact on family unity. It is important to ensure all of these regulations are developed in coordination with key stakeholders, including the Palestinian Authority," he added.

The ambassador closed his statement, writing: "I fully expect the Government of Israel to make necessary adjustments during the pilot period to ensure transparency as well as the fair and equal treatment of all U.S. citizens and other foreign nationals traveling to the West Bank."

In recent months US pressure on Israeli policy, in favor of the Palestinians, has been causing tension between the two nations. In May it was reported that the US sent a message to Israel threatening to suspend efforts to add Israel to the Visa Waiver Program if the COGAT policy is ever put into force. In July it reports came out that the US pressured Israel to open Ben Gurion International Airport to Palestinian Authority (PA) Arabs - and the agreement to allow them to use Ramon Airport was a compromise between the sides.