Palestinian freedom of movement
The restriction of the movement of Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied territories by the Israeli government is an issue in the Israel-Palestinian conflict. According to B'Tselem, following the 1967 war, the Occupied Territories were proclaimed closed military zones. In 1972, general exit orders were issued allowing residents of those territories to move freely between the West Bank, Israel and Gaza. In 1991, these general exit orders were revoked, and personal exit permits were required. According to B'Tselem, a measure of overall closure of the Occupied Territories was enacted for the first time in 1993, and would result in total closures following rises in Palestinian political violence.
In the mid-1990s, with the implementation of the Oslo Accords and the division of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip into three separate administrative divisions, there was little change to these restrictions. Comprehensive closures during the Second Intifada resulted in complete prohibitions on Palestinian movement into Israel and between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the situation remains the same today. Israel says that the regime of restrictions is necessary to protect Israelis living in Israel and the Israeli settlements.
Israel enforces restrictions on the freedom of movement of Palestinians in the West Bank by employing a system of permanent, temporary and random manned checkpoints, the West Bank Barrier and by forbidding the usage of roads by Palestinians. A 2007 World Bank report concluded that the West Bank "is experiencing severe and expanding restrictions on movement and access, high levels of unpredictability and a struggling economy." Unmanned physical obstructions to block roads and paths might include dirt piles, concrete blocks, large stones, barriers, ditches, and metal gates. The physical obstructions might be altered often, on the basis of political and security circumstances.
According to Israeli authorities, during 2008-2009, a significant amount of checkpoints were removed. As of July 2009, Israeli authorities reported that 27 checkpoints and 140 roadblocks had been removed in order to ease security restrictions in the West Bank. An additional 140 roadblocks were said to have been opened to traffic in 2008. As of 2009, there were 504 dirt roadblocks and 14 checkpoints in the West Bank.
- 1 History
- 2 Ease of restrictions in 2008-2009
- 3 Legality of restrictions
- 4 Checkpoints
- 5 Forbidden roads
- 6 Splitting of the West Bank
- 7 Closure of the West Bank
- 8 The West Bank Barrier and Seam Zone
- 9 Impact on medical care
- 10 Economic effects
- 11 Freedom of movement of Israeli citizens
- 12 See also
- 13 References
Subsequent to the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel's military proclaimed the West Bank and Gaza Strip to be closed military areas. In 1972, general exit orders were issued allowing residents of the Occupied Territories to freely leave, and travel between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Palestinians were also allowed to travel to Israel; this order applied to East Jerusalem, annexed to Israel but internationally recognized as occupied Palestinian territory. Palestinians were not allowed to be in Israel between 1.00 and 5.00 a.m. These exit orders were restricted for the first time in June 1989, shortly after the First Intifada broke out.
In 1991, during the Gulf War, the general exit orders were revoked and a new policy requiring each resident to obtain a personal exit permit to enter Israel was enacted. At first, most Palestinians could continue to enter Israel routinely since Israel issued many permits for relatively long periods. Gradually, however, Israel's permit policy became more and more strict.
The overall closure policy was imposed as an administrative measure by Israel for the first time in March 1993, as a result of the killing of nine Israeli civilians and six security forces personnel by Palestinian residents of the Occupied Territories. It has become a regular feature of Palestinian life influencing freedom of movement and the Palestinian economy. Israel claimed the closures provide security for Israelis and curtail Palestinian political violence. Amal Jamal, professor of political science at Tel Aviv University says that the policy was used as "a political weapon to force Palestinians into accepting short-term economic improvements over long-term territorial and political solutions."
In September 2000, the Second Intifada began, triggering Israeli closures and restrictions on Palestinian movement. In 2005, Israelis of the Gush Katif Israeli settlements were evacuated as part of Israel's unilateral disengagement plan. In 2007, Hamas took over the Gaza Strip, after which Israel and Egypt largely sealed their borders. Israel further tightened its blockade after Hamas began firing rockets into Israel. According to B'tselem, the Gaza Strip has been blockaded since 2007, restricting the movement of inhabitants into Israel and to other parts of the Palestinian territories.
Both the 1994 Oslo Accords and the 2003 Road Map for Peace were based on the principle that Palestinian economic and social life would be unimpeded by movement restrictions. According to B'tselem, Israel's current restrictions on Palestinian movement, implemented since the beginning of the Second Intifada, are the strictest so far implemented by the state.
Ease of restrictions in 2008-2009
The IDF has stated that during 2008, it has removed the crossing joins, 140 roadblocks and eight central checkpoints "in an effort to improve freedom of movement for the civilian Palestinian population in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley".
As of July 2009, Israeli authorities report that an additional 27 checkpoints and 140 roadblocks have been removed. 1500 permits have been issued to Palestinian public officials, allowing them to pass freely through the Israeli crossings into Israel. According to these sources, in the West Bank there are 504 remaining dirt roadblocks and 14 checkpoints.
Legality of restrictions
B'Tselem has argued that the consequences of the restrictions on the economic status Palestinian population have been so severe that they breach the rights guaranteed by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights—in particular, the right to a livelihood, the right to an acceptable standard of living, the right to satisfactory nutrition, clothing, and housing, and the right to attain the best standard of physical and mental health.
B'Tselem also argues that the restrictions on ill, wounded and pregnant Palestinians seeking acute medical care is in contravention of international law that states that medical professionals and the sick must be granted open passage.
John Dugard argues that "Restrictions on freedom of movement imposed by a rigid permit system enforced by some 520 checkpoints and roadblocks resemble, but in severity go well beyond, apartheid's 'pass system.'"
Inside Palestinian territory
Most of the checkpoints are inside Palestinian territory and are used by Israel to control the internal movements of Palestinians with the stated aim of enhancing the security of Israelis and preventing those who wish to do harm from crossing. As of 31 August 2009, according to B'Tselem, the Israeli army had 60 permanent checkpoints inside the West Bank, 18 of them in the city of Hebron. According to B'Tselem, 28 are regularly staffed - some around the clock, some only during the day, and some only a few hours a day. According to B'Tselem, permanent checkpoints form the most severe restriction on movement of Palestinians, who are subjected to checks that often cause prolonged delays and at some checkpoints, soldiers ban every Palestinian from going through except those who carry special permits.
The army announced in 2007 that it would lift the restrictions on Palestinians entering the Jordan Valley. However in practice, according to B'Tselem, by August 2009 there were still checkpoints restricting entry into the valley and requiring special permits.
Many checkpoints only allow the passage of Palestinians who meet certain gender and age-based criteria. Figures from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), state that there has been an average of 65 random checkpoints in the West Bank each week between September 2008 and the end of March 2009.
Between Israeli and Palestinian territory
There are 39 of these checkpoints that are permanent, manned and operate 24 hours a day and serve as the last control points between the West Bank and Israel. Although only land within the Green Line is administered as part of the State of Israel, according to B'tselem, most of these checkpoints are positioned within the West Bank, often kilometers from the Green Line.
There are 63 gates in the West Bank barrier, of which half are available for Palestinian use; however, Palestinians are required to have a permit to cross. According to B'tselem, the gates for Palestinians are open for a few hours each day.
Misbehaviour of personnel manning checkpoints
The Israel Defense Forces' Military Advocate General, Maj. Gen. Dr. Menachem Finkelstein released a statement to the Knesset Constitution, Justice and Law Committee in which he reported that there were many complaints about the troops manning the checkpoints abusing and humiliating Palestinians. He said that the excessive number of complaints "lit a red light". He said that the number of complaints required an examination to see whether the misbehavior was being caused by an excessive workload of the IDF soldiers manning the checkpoints.
An Israeli soldier was removed from duty and imprisoned for two weeks for refusing the passage of a pregnant Palestinian woman in labour. The woman was forced to give birth at the checkpoint and she suffered a miscarriage.
According to B'Tselem, Israel has shut off access roads to main roads with a number of physical obstructions, such as dirt piles, concrete blocks, large stones, barriers, ditches, and metal gates. The physical obstructions are altered often, on the basis of political and security circumstances; in 2007, there were 459 obstacles placed a month. These physical obstructions are not as flexible as manned checkpoints because they cannot be removed in times of emergency. As well as preventing vehicles from travelling they also prevent pedestrians who cannot travel over or around them such as the old, young, ill, wounded or pregnant women.
Like Israelis, Palestinians who are caught committing a traffic violation on a West Bank road must pay the traffic fine at an Israeli post office or a police station. However, in the West Bank the only such post offices and police stations are within Israeli settlements, and Palestinians must obtain a permit to enter them. If Palestinians fail to pay the fine, they lose their licenses the next time they are stopped by Israeli police. They also get a criminal record, which makes it even harder to get an Israeli entry permit.
B'Tselem has counted some 312 kilometers of road in the West Bank that is forbidden or restricted to cars with Palestinian number plates.
The Israeli Ministry of Justice said in reaction to a B'Tselem report that the roadblocks were put in place in order to protect Israeli citizens after a long range of suicide and shooting attacks by Palestinian militants, and have prevented hundreds of such attacks.
Professor David Kretzmer, who teaches constitutional law and international law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and at the Ramat Gan Law School heavily criticized the closure of Route 443 to Palestinians in Haaretz.
In 2009 Israel's High Court of Justice accepted the Association for Civil Rights in Israel's petition against an IDF order barring Palestinians from driving on Highway 443. The ruling should come into effect five months after being issued, allowing Palestinians to use the road for the first time since October 2000, when it was closed following the outbreak of the second intifada. 
Splitting of the West Bank
According to B'Tselem, the West Bank has been split into six distinct localities by Israel's restrictions - North, Center, South, the Jordan Valley, the northern Dead Sea, the enclaves created by the West Bank Barrier and East Jerusalem. Travelling between these regions is difficult and an exceptional occurrence, requiring a justification for officials, a great deal of time and sometimes substantial expense. According to a 2007 World Bank report entitled Movement and Access Restriction in the West Bank, "In the West Bank, closure is implemented through an agglomeration of policies, practices and physical impediments which have fragmented the territory into ever smaller and more disconnected cantons."
According to Said Zeedani, Israeli checkpoints impede the travel of Palestinians between the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, from Gaza and the outside world. "They make it extremely difficult for Palestinians even to move from one city to another and from one village to another within the same area or region".
Closure of the West Bank
During closures, all travels permits issued to residents of the West Bank to travel over the Green Line are frozen, whether they are for purposes of work, trade or medical treatment. In 2006 there were 78 closure days. In 2005 there were 132. Such closures of the West Bank are common during Jewish religious holidays.
Protests have occurred at a checkpoint on the route from the Christian holy site of Bethlehem to Jerusalem. Christian Palestinians have complained that they wanted to attend church in Jerusalem to celebrate the Christian holy day of Palm Sunday but they have been prevented by the Israeli security regime. Christian protesters have been joined by Muslims and secular Palestinians.
The West Bank Barrier and Seam Zone
The Israeli West Bank barrier is the single largest obstacle to Palestinian movement. The zone between the barrier and the Green Line is known as the Seam Zone. There are many olive groves in the seam zone and even though Israel opened "seasonal gates" in the barrier and issued permits to farmers, olive production has been hindered by the lack of access granted to Palestinian farmers throughout the year.
A UN report released in August 2005 observed that the existence of the barrier "replaced the need for closures: movement within the northern West Bank, for example, is less restrictive where the Barrier has been constructed. Physical obstacles have also been removed in Ramallah and Jerusalem governorates where the Barrier is under construction." The report notes that more freedom of movement in rural areas may ease Palestinian access to hospitals and schools, but also notes that restrictions on movement between urban population centers have not significantly changed.
Impact on medical care
Ill and wounded Palestinians who require acute medical care are placed at risk by Israeli restrictions on movement. The residents of villages and outlying regions require permits to travel to hospitals located in central regions. Obtaining the permits is difficult, requiring medical documents testifying to the illness as well as confirmation that the hospital is the only facility where the treatment is available and the time and date of the appointment.
According to B'Tselem, even if they have a valid permit, sick Palestinians must travel on long, winding, unmaintained roads and are often delayed for long periods at checkpoints. If they require medical care at night they must wait until checkpoints open during the day. Some Palestinian communities are prevented from using their cars or ambulances so that the sick must travel to the hospitals by foot. In 2007, B'Tselem documented five cases in which ill or wounded Palestinians died after being delayed at a checkpoint Palestinian hospitals in the West Bank have difficulty functioning due to the delays on the arrival of doctors and staff as a result of the movement restrictions. This has prevented the development of medical expertise in the Palestinian health system as staff are prevented from acquiring in-service training and students are preventing from going to university.
According to program director Col. Triber Bezalel, the IDF employs humanitarian officers at various checkpoints:
"[to] provide an understanding, helping hand to the Palestinians. Their job is to make life easier for those who cross the borders. To assist women who are holding babies and children, aid the elderly and sick and provide an open ear to Palestinian professionals who have special problems. These are Israel's ambassadors to our Palestinian neighbors and they perform brilliantly".
Treatment of pregnant women
Obtaining medical treatment is particularly problematic for pregnant Palestinian women about to give birth, since the delivery date is largely unpredictable yet the permits given are only valid for one or two days, as is the case for most sick persons. The women must therefore constantly renew their permits, and as a consequence, in some instances, mothers have entered labor and given birth at checkpoints because they did not have up-to-date permits. In 2007, 5 such births occurred at Israeli checkpoints. Between the years 2000 and 2006, more than 68 Palestinian women gave birth at Israeli checkpoints, according to statistics from the Palestinian health ministry. Of these, 35 women miscarried, and five died in childbirth.
According to B'Tselem, the restrictions on movement put in place by Israel since the Second Intifada are generally accepted as a major reason for the worsening of the Palestinian economy and as a reason for the increasing unemployment and poverty among Palestinians in the West Bank.
According to B'Tselem, tens of thousands of Palestinians lost employment in Israel as a direct result of the closure of the West Bank that Israel initiated at the start of the Second Intifada. Before the closure 110,000 Palestinians were employed in Israel and the settlements, which has been much reduced depending on the number of permits that Israel decides to issue to Palestinians.
According to B'Tselem, the checkpoints and restrictions within the West Bank make it difficult for Palestinians to commute to their places of employment and for goods to be transported to where they are needed. This has increased the costs of transportations and has thus led to lower profits for companies operating in the territories. According to B'Tselem, the restrictions have made trade between different sections of the West Bank inefficient, costly and erratic and this has split the West Bank economy into smaller localized markets. Agriculture and tourism are two sectors that have been greatly damaged by the movement restrictions.
According to B'Tselem, Palestinian importers and exporters have been particularly hard hit by the Israeli restrictions on commercial trade. Palestinian manufacturers that require the importation of raw materials have also faced hardship, and the Palestinian economy is highly dependent on foreign trade.
A World Bank report concludes: "As long as Israeli restrictions to access to land and water resources and movement are in place, and the majority of the West Bank remains to a large degree inaccessible for Palestinian economic investment, and the investment climate will remain unfavorable and business opportunities much below potential"
The Israel Defence Forces left the Gaza Strip on 1 September 2005 as part of Israel's unilateral disengagement plan. Following the withdrawal an 'Agreement on Movement and Access' between Israel and the Palestinian Authority was brokered by Condoleezza Rice in November 2005 to improve Palestinian freedom of movement and economic activity in the Gaza Strip. Under its terms, the Rafah crossing with Egypt was to be reopened, with transits monitored by the Palestinian National Authority and the European Union. Only people with Palestinian ID, or foreign nationals, by exception, in certain categories, subject to Israeli oversight, were permitted to cross in and out. All goods, vehicles and trucks to and from Egypt had to pass through the Israeli crossing at Kerem Shalom, under full Israeli supervision. Goods were also permitted transit at the Karni crossing in the north.
In June 2007 Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip  and removed Fatah officials. Following the takeover, Egypt and Israel largely sealed their border crossings with Gaza, on the grounds that Fatah had fled and was no longer providing security on the Palestinian side.
According to B'Tselem, the blockade of Gaza has harmed the Gaza economy and significantly impaired Palestinian trade between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Freedom of movement of Israeli citizens
Israeli citizens are allowed freedom of movement in the West Bank and along all main West Bank roads which connect Israeli settlements to each other and to Israel. Israeli citizens are restricted from travelling through regions controlled by the Palestinian Authority. These regions amount to 18% of the West Bank.
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