Reuters Corrects: Interim Accords Don’t Compel Israel To Grant Residency to 4,000 Palestinian Spouses

CAMERA’s Israel office today prompted a Reuters correction after the news agency erroneously reported that the bilateral peace accords require Israel to grant residency status to 4,000 spouses of Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza each year. Yesterday’s article, “Israel approves West Bank residency for 4,000 undocumented Palestinians,” erred:
Under interim Israeli-Palestinian peace deals that established the PA, Israel committed to approve the residency in the West Bank and Gaza of some 4,000 new spouses of local residents each year under a family reunification programme.

The signing of the Oslo Accords, 1993 (Photo by Vince Musi / The White House / Wikipedia)

The relevant clause in the Interim Agreement, Article 28 of Annex III, states:

The Palestinian side shall inform Israel of every change in its population registry, including, inter alia, any change in the place of residence of any resident.

ll. To reflect the spirit of the peace process, the Palestinian side has the right, with the prior approval of Israel, to grant permanent residency in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to:

a. investors, for the purpose of encouraging investment;

b. spouses and children of Palestinian residents, and

c. other persons, for humanitarian reasons, in order to promote and upgrade family reunification.

The accord’s clauses addressing family reunification do not refer to Israel committing to the approval of 4,000 for residency per year. Nor does the agreement specify any figure. 
In a July 2006 report (“Perpetual Limbo“), B’Tselem wrote:
In October 1998, in the framework of the Wye Agreement, between Israel and the PA, Israel raised the quota to 3,000 a year, not counting the requests submitted by members the first High Court population. [sic?] In early 2000, in the framework of peace negotiations between the parties, Israel again raised the quota, to 4,000 a year. This policy remained in effect until the outbreak of the second intifada, in September of that year.
B’Tselem’s footnote for the 4,000 figure states: “M’aruf Zahran, director general, and Ayman Qandil, head of the statistics department, of the Palestinian Authority’s Civil Affairs Ministry, provided this information to B’Tselem on 14 August 2005.”
In other words, even B’Tselem, which is highly critical of Israel’s implementation of family reunification, does not assert that Israel committed in the Interim Accords to grant residency to 4,000 spouses per year. If that were the case, B’Tselem would have cited the Article in question, and not an unverifiable private communication from a Palestinian official which vaguely asserts that the commitment was made “in the framework of peace negotiations.” 
If Israel did make this commitment, B’Tselem can’t say where.
In response to communication from CAMERA, Reuters promptly and commendably corrected the article. It now accurately reports:

Under interim peace deals in the 1990s that established the PA, the Palestinian side was given the right, with prior approval by Israel, to grant permanent residency in the West Bank and Gaza to spouses and children of Palestinian residents. The accords did not specify any family reunification figures.

Rights groups that examine Israeli activities in the occupied territories said a quota system was put into effect, with the number of reunification requests to be considered annually by Israel rising to 4,000 in the year 2000.

In addition, a note at the top of the article alerts readers to the change:
(This Oct. 19 story deletes reference in paragraph 8 to interim peace deals setting residency quota)
For the Arabic version of this post, please see CAMERA Arabic.