Israel forces internal movement permits on Palestinians
Ha’aretz, Friday, May 17, 2002
by Amira Hass
The Israeli army has been tightening its grip on movement of Palestinians in cities and towns in the West Bank by insisting that they obtain new freedom-of-movement permits from the regional administration to travel from one city to another.
This has become clear in information reaching representatives of donor and international non-profit organizations that operate in the area, and was confirmed by a senior Israeli security source.
According to a source from a donor country, the result has been to effectively cut the territory into cantons. Under the new system, goods can be transported within the territories only using a “back-to-back system” in which a truck goes to a certain location where goods are unloaded to another awaiting truck, which then carries the merchandise further.
Pedestrians, as well as drivers, have been left with one entrance into the area – which can be crossed only after receiving the proper freedom-of-movement permit. Israeli authorities say the permits are intended to ease the lives of Palestinians, because they reduces the need for closures and sieges.
Donor country representatives say that the new measures have divided up the area into eight population regions, effectively isolated from one another, with traffic and movement control exercised by the Israel Defense Forces. The eight regions are Jenin, Nablus, Tul Karm, Qalqilya, Ramallah, Jericho, Bethlehem and Hebron.
The representative offices of such international organizations as the Red Cross employ a large number of Palestinians and in a meeting with Israeli authorities they were told to henceforth apply to the civilian district office to request the freedom-of-movement permits for their employees. They were told that the permits were valid from 5:00 A.M. until 7:00 P.M. and must be renewed every month.
A donor country source said donor countries and non-profit groups were holding discussions to hammer out a unified response to this new order. The source added that to date the organizations have not submitted requests for the permits. He added that even if the measure was presented as a temporary one, there was much trepidation that dividing up the territory into eight regions isolated from each other would become a permanent feature.
The controls would further damage economic activity in the territories, which has already been hard hit by the army’s curfew policy, and could be a fatal blow to private businesses. It was also damaging to the PA and to development plans for the West Bank.
Donor country representatives have briefed their governments about the changing situation and are awaiting a diplomatic response. They also reported the change in procedure to the PA which had not been briefed by the Israelis.
Area residents have also not received any formal notification of tightening of the closure and the new bureaucracy, discovering the change when they show up at checkpoints and are ordered by soldiers to go to the civil administration building at Bet El and bring a permit allowing them to leave Ramallah.
This especially affects teachers who teach in villages south and west of Ramallah, and other Ramallah residents – business owners, as well as clerks and others who work in Palestinian neighborhoods south of the checkpoint. The Palestinian Ministry of Education has instructed teachers not to apply for a travel permit.
Ophir Chaham, spokesman for the coordinating committee for activity in the territories insists that the permits were designed to ease the life of the average Palestinian in the territories and provide an alternative for closures and curfews.